University of Wisconsin junior linebacker Chris Borland practiced this week but at something less than full speed, leaving his status in question for the game against Ohio State on Saturday.
Borland was temporarily knocked out of the game last week against Indiana with what UW coach Bret Bielema said afterward were leg cramps.
However, Borland was slowed by a hamstring injury in preseason camp and it sounds like he might have aggravated that situation.
"He's OK," Bielema said after practice on Thursday. "Going to start the game, see where we're at. At least in pregame, see where we're at.
"He hasn't gone full, open-up throttle, so if that gets to be an issue, obviously we go in a different direction."
Sophomore Marcus Trotter would start if Borland can't play. The backup plan would be to move Ethan Armstrong to the middle and start Conor O'Neill in Armstrong's spot on the strong side.
Borland is second on UW in tackles (82) and tackles for loss (nine) and first in sacks (41/2). He is from Kettering, Ohio, so facing the Buckeyes has special meaning to him.
"He's been out there (practicing), but game speed is different than practice speed," Bielema said. "It'll be interesting to see when Saturday gets here. Now, each day he's gotten better.
"He's very adamant about every day it feels better. A lot of times when you're dealing with an injury like that, you get concerned if they start regressing. He hasn't regressed."
Trotter has appeared in eight games without a start.
"Marcus has done some good things, he really has, going back to last spring and during fall camp," Bielema said.
Senior class near record
Eight of the nine UW seniors who will be recognized before the game are fifth-year players whose first year in the program was in 2008.
That was the year the Badgers went 7-6, the worst season in Bielema's seven years as head coach.
Needless to say, it wasn't the UW program the players were expecting to join.
"The biggest thing was coming in, seeing where that team was at, how the locker room was and, 'OK, what do we need to do?'" fifth-year defensive end Brendan Kelly said.
Now, this group of seniors has a 39-11 record (.780) over the past four seasons and is the second-winningest class in school history. A victory over the Buckeyes would tie the 2007 class record of 40 wins over a four-year span (40-11, .784).
With three games remaining after Saturday, this class has a good chance of leaving with the most wins over a four-year span in UW history.
The big carrot still remains. The Badgers are trying to win a third straight Big Ten Conference title for the first time in school history, having already clinched a spot in the conference title game.
"The legacy that we're trying to leave is being the Big Ten champs again," said running back Montee Ball, the only fourth-year senior in the group.
It's a long way to come from after losing their first four conference games in 2008 and going 3-5 in Big Ten play.
"We were obviously young at that time but we were part of the change we had in this program," Kelly said. "We were the change that we wanted to see in the program."
UW's nine scholarship seniors are tied for third-fewest among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The only schools with fewer are Indiana (eight), Colorado (eight) and Rice (seven).
Because the group is so small, Kelly said it's especially close.
"I feel like we're the type of locker room right now, you're never good enough, you're never satisfied," he said.
Kelly said when he watches film of the 2008 season he can't believe how much things have changed. Some of that is due to coaching changes, which has led to different techniques and philosophies. But some of it is a different attitude and approach that Kelly says is evident.
"You go back and put on film from that year — I do it all the time, watch some of the older guys play," Kelly said. "This team is so much different in everything we do ... it's unbelievable to see the difference."
Hot when weather cold
UW's 21-game home winning streak was snapped in the 16-13 overtime loss to Michigan State on Oct. 27, but two significant streaks live on: The Badgers are 6-0 on Senior Day under Bielema and have won nine straight in November, outscoring opponents 474-152.
"I think it's going to be a motivating factor for our kids," Bielema said of Senior Day. "On top of it, to play Ohio State in our place, obviously after the last games (in the series), the way they've played out, is a very exciting time for them."
Playing well at the end of the season is something that is emphasized all year long.
"From January to now, the coaches always harp on finishing," senior strong safety Shelton Johnson said. "It's always a goal every week to get better and better. If you're not doing that, you set yourself up for bad Novembers or losses late in the year."