Wisconsin warming up to December games

CHICAGO -- Whether or not the Big Ten expands, Wisconsin fans should get used to playing football in early December.

Wisconsin recently moved two games against Illinois from Thanksgiving weekend to the first weekend of December. The Badgers will visit Illinois on Dec. 3, 2011, and will host the Fighting Illini on Dec. 1, 2012.

Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said Monday that playing games on the first weekend of December makes sense on a number of levels. The Badgers finished the 2009 season on Dec. 5 against Hawaii and went on to win the Champs Sports Bowl just 24 days later.

"We're going to try to [move games]," Alvarez said. "We don't want to play on that Thanksgiving weekend. A lot of students aren't there. If you move it into December, you have an opportunity to practice a little more, get it going into bowl season, and you stay relevant.

"The Illinois guys felt that way, and we were able to move our games. We'll look to do some more of that."

Wisconsin has a bit of flexibility as it doesn't have a traditional rivalry game at the end of the regular season. The Badgers finished the 2008 regular season against Cal Poly, played Hawaii last fall and will wrap up this season against Northwestern on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 27).

How will potential league expansion affect all this?

"We're going to continue to schedule," said Alvarez, who wouldn't mind adding Notre Dame to Wisconsin's future slate. "We'll see how [expansion] works out, but we're going to continue to schedule."