Wisconsin gets break from conference competition after consecutive losses

It's probably a blessing Wisconsin gets a break from the Big Ten schedule this week to entertain Northern Illinois. The Badgers are reeling from consecutive losses, including a 38-7 thrashing Saturday at Penn State. The 31-point loss was Wisconsin's worst since a 49-14 defeat at Michigan State in 2004. Now coach Bret Bielema's team, once ranked No. 5, is locked in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten, with games against Michigan and Ohio State still to play. That's hardly the recipe for the BCS bowl that eluded the 11-1 Badgers last season when Michigan and Ohio State claimed the only two BCS spots any single conference is allowed.

"You go from on your way to a really good season, you've got dreams, you've got hopes, you've got goals," junior cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said. "Then, two weeks go by and they don't seem obtainable any more."

The lone bright spot of the lost weekend in Happy Valley was the continued emergence of freshman wide receiver Kyle Jefferson. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound product of Cleveland's Glenville High School, which has been the exclusive recruiting property of Ohio State, looks like a star in the making after catching six passes for 124 yards. He complements tight end Travis Beckum and could fill the gap out wide, left by the season-ending injury to senior Luke Swan. He tore a hamstring in the loss to Illinois two weeks ago.