September 17, 2009

Wofford not without talent, should test UW

MADISON, Wis. - Any college football fan has heard and seen this story before.

You know, the one where the little guy comes into the big stadium and knocks off one of the nation's premier teams on their home field.

Need examples? Look at Appalachian State a couple of season's ago going into the 'Big House' and upending a Michigan team with lofty expectations for the season.

Or one closer to home, and although that Wisconsin team was nothing to write home about, when Cal Poly came into Camp Randall and took the Badgers into overtime before UW was able to seal the win.

This week, another pesky FCS team will come to Camp Randall to match skills with undefeated Wisconsin. Don't let the lower division moniker allow you to jump to conclusions though. The Terriers are going to be a test for the Badgers and UW is fully aware of it.

"No one is going to lay down for us," UW sophomore defensive end J.J. Watt said. "Wofford isn't going to lay down for us. We look forward to them coming in here and working their tails off.

"We're going to work our tails off and try to win the game."

If history is any indication, the talent gap between Division 1 and 1-AA is not as large as some may think. Some smaller schools have gone into BCS stadiums and walked away with a victory. Some, already this season.

During week one, William and Mary went into Virginia and knocked off the Cavaliers. On top of that, Duke, another ACC school fell to Richmond in the season opener.

Then there is what happened to Iowa to begin the year. The Hawkeyes needed to block two field goals against Northern Iowa in the waning seconds to avoid the stunning upset at Kinnick Stadium.

The bottom line is that the talent gap from Division 1 to I-AA is closing, and has been for some time.

"I can say from the MAC to BCS conferences it's (the talent gap) not huge," Watt said. "So I would imagine D1-AA can't be too far down. From what we've seen on film is that they're great players that play real hard. It's definitely not going to be an easy game for us."

For Wofford, Saturday's game won't be the first time playing an upper division opponent in 2009. To start the season, the Terriers played at South Florida. Sure the final score was 40-7, but the first half was much closer, including a 7-7 tie after one quarter and a 16-7 score at halftime.

So, if anything good comes out of a loss, Wofford will have a better understanding of what to expect for this trip back into the bowl subdivision. The game in Madison will be one featured on a national television network in front of a large crowd in a tough stadium to play. And judging by recent outcomes in such contests, this game should get the Terriers plenty fired up to play.

"There's a lot of skill all over the place," UW senior and captain Chris Maragos, who spent some time in the MAC conference before transferring to Wisconsin, said. "its just guys that didn't get found or got overlooked and are late bloomers. I think the biggest thing is those guys really appreciate what they've got and they play tough.

"Obviously you supplement that with talent and you see a lot of these teams playing with good teams."

The Badgers have become accustomed to playing lower division opponents in recent seasons. In 2007, The Citadel came to Madison and played UW to a 21-21 halftime tie. UW went on to score the first 24 points in the second half and cruised to a 45-31 win, but still, the Bulldogs proved their worth.

Then, last season, if it weren't for a couple of missed field goals by the Cal Poly kickers, the Badgers would have likely lost to the Mustangs. Instead, they settled for a one-point overtime win.

"The thing is that we all have the same goals," UW junior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "Everyone is in high school looking to get the big offers and there are guys that go under the radar. It's nothing saying that just because we go to Wisconsin that we have more heart than those guys from Wofford.

"They're going to bring their all for Saturday and we've got to be prepared for their best."

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