It's going to take more than a third straight Rose Bowl loss and a coaching change to dampen the expectations for the University of Wisconsin football team next season.
The pain from the 20-14 loss to Stanford on Tuesday will linger all offseason, as losses in bowl games always do — especially another heartbreaking loss in the Rose Bowl.
Sixteen of the players who started the game — plus the kicker and punter — are expected to return next season, highlighted by an experienced group of 26 juniors.
While the 8-6 record is a major disappointment for a team that opened the season 12th in both the media and coaches' polls, this was in some ways a bridge year, ever since former UW coach Bret Bielema started gushing prior to the season about the potential for 2013.
"I know they're going to be great here next year," departing offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. "I have no doubt about it. You have nine (starters) coming back on offense. This was the tough year, this was the year to work through a lot of things and a lot of transition.
"They're moving forward and they'll have an unbelievable ... they'll have a top offense in the nation with all of the great guys they have coming back and I know a quality staff coming in. They'll do a great job."
New UW coach Gary Andersen, who watched the Rose Bowl from the sideline, had to be impressed with the effort and resiliency of the Badgers, especially after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
Ultimately, this team had some shortcomings and they started at quarterback. The Badgers had 218 rushing yards against the nation's third-ranked run defense, which came in allowing 87.7 yards per game.
But they weren't able to make enough plays in the air. That doesn't all fall on fifth-year senior Curt Phillips — who hopes to return for a sixth season. He completed 10 of 16 passes for only 83 yards and had a costly interception that snuffed out a late drive near midfield for a potential game-winning touchdown.
The Badgers need to significantly upgrade at the receiver position. Junior Jared Abbrederis was the only legitimate threat in the group, and he fell off late in the second half when defenses focused coverages on him. He didn't have a touchdown in the last eight games and averaged only 40.1 receiving yards in that stretch.
Bielema, who was prone to overstating the abilities of his players, called this his most talented group of tight ends. Junior Jacob Pedersen was named the top tight end in the Big Ten Conference, but the group needs to be more dynamic in the passing game.
The offensive line loses just one starter, left tackle Rick Wagner — provided center Travis Frederick doesn't leave early for the NFL. Frederick is one of four players who filed paperwork from the NFL Advisory Committee and the most likely of the group to strongly consider leaving. The others are left guard Ryan Groy, linebacker Chris Borland and Abbrederis.
Although Wagner had a disappointing senior year, it won't be easy finding his replacement at a critical position. The top candidates will be Tyler Marz, who will be a sophomore, and Groy, who made two starts at left tackle when Wagner was hurt.
Senior tailback Montee Ball is gone after a highly productive career in which he rushed for 5,140 yards and scored 83 touchdowns. Yet, running back is one of the least concerns, thanks to the return of James White and Melvin Gordon.
The losses on defense include senior linebacker Mike Taylor, the leading tackler the last two seasons, and three of the four starters in the secondary. The only returning starter in the back end is free safety Dezmen Southward, who will be a senior.
Departing defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge noted the top 10 players all return on the defensive line, which should be a strength.
"They're obviously going to have to piece that together within their (new) scheme, but you have to feel pretty good about the front," Partridge said.
"I think defensive backs, you have some kids that are developing, in position to take over ... that aren't quite there yet. They'll want to develop hard in the spring.
"Mike Taylor is a big hit at the linebacker position, but the other two (Borland and Ethan Armstrong) are back. With having that many guys back up front, you should have a chance to have success."
As good as the defense played for most of the season, it needs to produce more turnovers. The Badgers had 15 takeaways — none against Stanford.
The other issues are how quickly the Badgers will adapt to an almost entirely new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball. That was an issue early this season after replacing six assistant coaches, including a new coordinator in Canada.
"It's no secret it's challenging, it's frustrating," Ball said. "Because you learn one entire playbook and then a new coach comes in and you've got to learn another playbook."
Borland said he came away from bowl practices even more excited about next season.
"Obviously you're preparing for the game," he said prior to the Rose Bowl. "But there are times when young guys get to play and we've got a lot of good young players, too. There's no reason to think we can't be as good a team next year."