INDIANAPOLIS - Imagine how things would be different for the 10-2 Wisconsin Badgers had Russell Wilson chosen to play someplace other than UW. Think about the lack of depth at the quarterback position, particularly in regards to proven, game experience.
Would Wisconsin be preparing for the inaugural Big Ten title game Saturday night? Would Joe Brennan, as it turns out, have led the Badgers to this stage and a chance to play for the right to play in the Rose Bowl?
"Just because I'm an optimistic coach I'd like to think we could," UW head coach Bret Bielema said at his press conference inside Lucas Oil Stadium. "But we've have some real unfortunate breaks at quarterback."
Junior Curt Phillips has been away from the practice field for much of the season after suffering his third ACL injury during spring camp. Sophomore Jon Budmayr has missed the entirety of the regular season after suffering a nerve injury to his throwing elbow early in fall camp.
Had Wilson not committed to Wisconsin the magnitude of the season would have been firmly placed on the shoulders of Brennan. Joel Stave, a walk-on freshman, would have been his backup.
Things would have most likely been different.
"I really do think good things happen to good people," Bielema said. "We were in a very bad situation at quarterback and somehow Russell appeared."
Though Wilson's production this season would prove otherwise, Bielema made it fundamentally clear how he envisioned a quarterback battle between the senior playmaker and Budmayr.
Then Budmayr's arm went numb. And he never recovered.
"I never promised game time at the first string position to Russell," Bielema said. "Not in any way, shape or form and he'll verify that. So when Budmayr got hurt during the first week of fall camp that's the part that is the most amazing.
"We really needed it to come through. I think Russell found us for the right reasons."
Slowing Ball down:
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio talked about the importance of slowing Montee Ball if his MSU squad were to beat Wisconsin. He talked about his ability to jump cut, break tackles and attack the second level of a given defense.
The Spartans enter Saturday's championship game with the No. 1 ranked rush defense in the league. Wisconsin enters Saturday's championship game with the No. 1 ranked offense in the league.
Ball is one of the nation's premier tailbacks and one that seems more motivated than he ever has during his three-year career in Madison. Something most certainly has to give.
"We unfortunately have gone against some very good defenses here at the end," Bielema said. "Illinois, statistically, was as good as anybody. Penn State, obviously their numbers against the run were outstanding. In our league we went against some really, really good defenses.
"Our guys took to the challenge."
-Bielema hinted that he had placed Montee Ball on his ballot for first-team All-American. According to Bielema that award list will come out on Monday.
-Sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis continues to practice as a defender in Hail Mary situations. Bielema noted how his squad hasn't been practicing that play formation anymore than it normally does.
-When asked if he was happy with the Big Ten championship being played inside Lucas Oil Stadium, Bielema quickly quipped back with a one-liner.
"I would have been fine with it at Camp Randall," Bielema said. "I do kind of like the Pac 12 thing where they play at the home team stadium."
-Center Peter Konz did travel with the team and will attempt to participate in Friday's walkthrough. There has been no decision made in regards Konz's playing status.
Bielema on whether the season will be a success with a Badger loss:
"I'd hate to have a 10-win team not be considered successful. This is an environment you have a chance to add a bigger name to what this legacy is of this team. I get it, but it would be very hard for me to be disappointed in this team. I will say that."
The following is the audio file from Bielema's presser: