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Texas Christian brings unbeaten record to Pasadena; Wisconsin brings Rose Bowl experience

Wisconsin's athletic director, Barry Alvarez, led the Badgers to Rose Bowl victories three times as coach. TCU is looking for its first BCS bowl-game victory.

January 01, 2011|By Gary Klein

Barry Alvarez knows what it takes to win the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin's athletic director was victorious all three times he came to Pasadena as the Badgers' coach, and he passed on some do's and don'ts to his successor, Bret Bielema.

"He's following the blueprint," Alvarez said. "But you still have to go out and execute."

Bielema and Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson will both face immense pressure and scrutiny Saturday when their teams play in the 97th Rose Bowl game.

Comparatively speaking, Bielema has it easier.

After four minor bowl berths, the fifth-year coach has led the Badgers to a Bowl Championship Series game.

The Capital One, Outback and Champs Sports bowls were nice rewards for jobs well and not-so-well done.

But Bielema knows that red-clad Badgers fans — expected to once again make the Rose Bowl resemble Camp Randall West — and the rest of the Big Ten Conference are wondering if his 11-1 team will rise to the occasion on one of the sport's grandest stages.

"The BCS is where everybody looks and everybody talks about," Bielema said Friday.

Patterson can relate.

For the second year in a row, his team enters a BCS game with a 12-0 record.

But all most anyone outside the Mountain West Conference can remember is TCU's poor performance in last season's Fiesta Bowl, where the Horned Frogs lost to Boise State in their first BCS bowl appearance.

Now, ratchet up the pressure even more.

TCU is the first team from a conference outside the BCS "automatic qualifiers" to nab a spot in the Rose Bowl, a berth that otherwise would have gone to Stanford if not for a loophole in the process that opened a slot for the Horned Frogs.

Patterson and TCU have proved over the years that they can compete with anyone during the regular season, but can the Horned Frogs do it when it counts most?

Patterson said he has told his players to "enjoy the ride" and play at a high level.

"After 10 years, we finally got to a point where all eyes of America are on them and getting the chance to prove what kind of program we have and go do it," Patterson said.

Wisconsin has proved it can handle the Rose Bowl.

The Badgers were 0-3 in the game until Alvarez guided teams to victories over UCLA in 1994 and 1999 and Stanford in 2000.

But Wisconsin will enter this game as a three-point underdog.

"We should be," Bielema said. "They're an undefeated football team. They've done something we haven't."

However, TCU remains in search of a BCS bowl-game victory, if not full validation.

Horned Frogs players have not forgotten last season's 17-10 loss to Boise State, especially their problems on offense.

"We all have that in the back of our mind," TCU quarterback Andy Dalton said.

Center Jake Kirkpatrick recalled being surprised by the sound in Sun Devil Stadium.

"Andy was a foot away from me and I couldn't hear him," Kirkpatrick said.

The coaching staffs' headsets also went on the blink, delaying play calls and forcing TCU to go to a silent snap count.

Patterson expects that his team will handle the setting better this time around.

But both he and Bielema were taking no chances.

Each coach took his team to the Arroyo Seco twice this week to get the wow factor out of the way.

Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi said neither team has more pressure than the other.

"It's the same pressure," he said, "because they're trying to prove that the smaller conferences have a right to be in the game, and we're trying to prove that we should always be in the game."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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