Tradition and rivalries are two of the most important things in Big Ten country and especially so at Wisconsin. As Gary Andersen gets ready for his first season at the helm of the Badgers those concepts aren’t lost on him.
“I believe it’s going to be very similar to what I’m used to,” said Andersen at Big Ten Media Day on Wednesday. “A lot of build up during the week, a lot of talk.”
One thing that is for sure is Andersen won’t be shying away from learning about the rivalry games with Iowa and Minnesota and that process has already begun for him.
“As you venture around the state, especially when I get into the Minnesota area it becomes very apparent that you’re on this side of the fence or that side of the fence,” said Andersen.
Helping to spread the knowledge of what these rivalry games are, especially the Iowa game, which hasn’t been played in two seasons will fall to the likes of Chris Borland, Jared Abbrederis, and James White. It’s a role that they are embracing and a transition that is going smoothly according to White.
“I think the coaching staff has embraced that (the rivalry games) already and it feels like they’ve been here for awhile,” said White during Big Ten Media Day on Tuesday. “It’s been a smooth transition and we are excited to get playing our schedule.”
Andersen is no stranger to strong rivalry games having participated in and grown up around the BYU-Utah rivalry (known in some parts as the “Holy War”) and he expects to draw from those experiences heading into the new rivalry games.
At Utah State Andersen set the goal of creating the football rivalry with the other two in-state institutions, but noted that a rivalry can only exist if it’s competitive – something that has sorely been lacking in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
“Rivalries are not rivalries if it’s completely lopsided or it’s one sided,” Andersen said. “Those are not rivalries.”
Wisconsin is going for a 10 year winning streak against the Gophers this season, but have not played for the Heartland Trophy against Iowa since 2010. That game will have a big time carrot in front of it as the winner will break the deadlock in a series that currently stands at 42-42-1.
Going forward all three teams will be in the new Big Ten West Division beginning in the 2014 season. That will only help to add spice to these historic and intense rivalry games.
The intensity is something that head coach Gary Andersen sees as a major difference coming into Wisconsin from his days at Utah State.
“It’s fun to be associated with them (rivalry games),” said Andersen. “It seems to be very intense, like all good rivalries are.”
It will be interesting to see how Andersen goes about handling the weeks leading up to Iowa and Minnesota this year, but with his history regarding rivalry games don't be surprised if he already has a plan in place to handle all that will come his way - even if it is new to him.