A staple of the Paul Chryst era has been the team’s focus on what is directly ahead of them and in their control. One week, one game, one practice, one play at a time.
Every week, in fact, every day, players and coaches refuse to look past even the most mundane of opponents and what should be the most routine of weeks.
With Wisconsin off to one of their best starts in recent years, there is added pressure and added outside conversations that could deviate the players’ focus. An undefeated team, but still ranked below multiple one-loss teams in the College Football Rankings. Other top Big Ten contenders are dropping like flies.
But the players remain with only the next Saturday ahead of them in sight.
“For our team, I’d say it’s one of the easier things to do. You know, blocking out the noise year round. It’s kind of the thing here. It’s the way we play football, we don’t get the respect we deserve,” said fullback Austin Ramesh.
The slower and less flashy run first, power offense that Wisconsin, and much of the Big Ten, still utilizes doesn’t pass the eye test as much as the pass-happy offenses.
With a team that so often gets overlooked, it could be easy for the players to get down on themselves and start to feel like nothing can be done. Wisconsin utilizes and maintains its focus on the week ahead, and proving themselves play in and play out, no matter the opponent.
For Wisconsin, the best way to block out all of the noise is to amp up their focus.
“I think we’re just so focused on what we’re doing during the week. We work hard during practice and in the film room,” Ramesh said.
And it is not something that comes easily. Teammates lean on each other as a source of steadiness and a constant reminder to focus on what they alone can control.
“We talk about it all day, day in and day out. We can’t pay attention to the outside noise, we just have to pay attention to what’s going on who’s in the locker room, focus on our teammates and at the end, we’ll be successful,” wide receiver A.J. Taylor said.
Over the course of the season, the overall competitiveness of the Big Ten has been questioned. Especially in the Western division, home of Wisconsin.
No teams were projected to be competitive with Wisconsin for the divisional crown and currently, no teams are.
“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is how hard it is to win in this conference. No matter how bad a team may seem on paper, they’re always going to give us their best, they’re always going to fight us with all they got,” offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel said.
When Penn State and Ohio State both fell in their respective games last weekend, the Big Ten was seen as being in chaos.
For the Wisconsin players, however, it only proved how deep and competitive the conference as a whole is.
“I definitely think it shows how competitive the conference is. We say it every week. You can’t look past anyone that you’re playing,” Ramesh said. “No matter who that may be. That said, you have to celebrate your wins. Don’t take those wins for granted.”
With the belief that any one team in the conference can compete with the best, players refuse to overlook any opponent.
“I think it’s more competitive and deep. We were talking about it. Anyone can lose to anyone at anytime. So I feel like with that being said, every team is strong, no team is an outlier or anything like that,” Taylor said.
Even coaches cannot be baited into even having expectations of their players past the week they have ahead of them.
“Just play great against Iowa and just play great this week. That’s all we got and he doesn’t have to do anything more than that,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said when asked about running back Jonathan Taylor’s raised expectations.
For Wisconsin, it is business as usual. They march on with ease. Getting disrespected and overlooked. Using that as motivation to maintain focus every week. And grind out wins against gritty Big Ten foes.