There’s plenty to look forward for the University of Wisconsin football team.
The ninth-ranked Badgers open Big Ten Conference play next week against Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium, and if they take care of business as a betting favorite over the next month-plus, they’ll figure into the College Football Playoff picture when the first CFP rankings are released on Halloween.
With no opponent this Saturday, though, UW hasn’t focused much attention on those Big Ten teams looming on its schedule.
“The primary focus of the bye week has got to be your team and your players,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said Thursday. “Where are you at right now, and can you take advantage of that extra time to hone in on a couple fundamentals? ... I think it’s all about putting the focus and energy on yourself and making sure you’re improving. That’s what we have to do this week.”
Focusing on themselves also means the Badgers want to give their players adequate rest before grinding out either nine or 10 games in a row beginning next week.
Players lifted on Monday and Tuesday of this week but Chryst gave them off from practice those two days. UW practiced Wednesday and Thursday and plans on taking the field again Friday.
Many of UW’s key first-team players have earned some additional time off this week, giving them extra rest and allowing second-team players to see more reps before potentially being forced into a larger role later in the season.
“There’s going to be a group of guys that are that next guy in, and it’s a really good time for them to get some good work in,” Chryst said. “Maybe they’re not sore after playing a lot of snaps in three games, although we’ve been fortunate to get a lot of players some snaps, but it can be a really good week for our twos.”
Chryst said it’s important to weigh which players need more work than others this week so that the Badgers are able to make a smooth transition back into a normal game week Monday.
“You’re kind of in a rhythm of the season,” he said. “You want to stay sharp, so you try to balance that.”
Dietzen’s status uncertain
Chryst said sophomore left guard Jon Dietzen has made progress with his right leg injury, but his status remains uncertain for next week’s game against Northwestern.
Junior Micah Kapoi replaced Dietzen in the starting lineup in last week’s 40-6 victory at BYU.
“We’ll see,” Chryst said when asked about Dietzen’s availability for next week’s game. “I do feel good that he’s getting better, but we’ll see how that all works out the rest of this week and next week.”