By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Aug 18, 2005 at 5:13 AM

{image1}College football teams in the state have started practice for season openers in a couple weeks.

The Wisconsin Badgers are preparing for coach Barry Alvarez's final season. Assistant Brett Bielema will take over after this season, with Alvarez staying on as athletic director.

Most pre-season polls are picking the Badgers to finish around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. But, the Alvarez announcement could serve as extra incentive for the Badgers.

Quarterback John Stocco is a key to UW's fortunes. If he develops further and improves over last year, the Badgers could surprise some people. If Stocco doesn't take a step up, he could face competition for his starting spot.

Alvarez has made it clear he does not consider himself a lame duck this coming season. "I think it's very important to emphasize that my immediate focus is to coach the 2005 football team and coach them to its fullest potential," he said at the press conference where he made his announcement.

"The thing that I shared with the players this morning; that I would guarantee them that they will have a great effort and great preparation and tremendous focus from myself and our entire staff. They deserve that because they've worked so hard in preparation for this season, and we will not let them down."

The real powerhouse in state college football can be found in La Crosse, where the UW-L football team will be going after an unprecedented fourth straight undisputed championship in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Coach Steve Terry's team is ranked ninth by and 15th by Street & Smith. The Eagles were picked to win the WIAC title in a pre-season coaches' poll.

Quarterback Steve Tennies, a WIAC All Conference pick last season, ranks third in school history with 38 touchdown passes. But, Tennies could be challenged by junior John Schumann, who played in nine games last season.

Safety Kenneth Halvorson was selected a second team All American in the pre-season poll of D3, but will miss the season because of a hernia injury.

Whitewater is picked to finish second in the WIAC and is ranked 21st in the country by D3. Stevens Point was picked to finish third in the conference. Eau Claire was ranked 22nd in the country by D3.

Carthage, which tied for the CCIW title last fall, is picked to finish second this season, with Wheaton seen as the favorite. Carthage tied with North Central for second in the pre-season poll. D3 ranks Carthage 13th in the nation.

St. Norbert, a perennial power in the Midwest Conference, only received some honorable mention votes in the D3 poll, but was ranked 10th in Division III by Lindy's, another small college football news media outlet, and 16th by Street & Smith.

The Green Knights finished 9-0 in the conference and 9-2 overall. They were eliminated in the NCAA Division III playoffs by La Crosse. Running back Casey Meehan, who led the conference in rushing last season with 1,286 yards, has been selected a pre-season All American by Lindy's.

Lakeland in Sheboygan was picked to win the Illini-Badger Conference championship in a pre-season poll. Concordia, which has won the title or shared it the last two seasons, tied for second in that poll.

Most teams in the state have their openers on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Brewers' Player of the Week

When you lose six of seven games in a week, it's tough to pick a Player of the Week, but give it to rookie Corey Hart, who hit a home run as his first major league hit on Sunday.

Hart was called up in a flurry of roster moves necessitated in part to injuries to Brady Clark, Matt Wise and Julio Santana. Carlos Lee was in a slump, and even Ben Sheets, who had been so effective lately, got knocked around Monday night in Colorado.

Brewers' fans certainly have seen this before, but let's hope Ned Yost's Crew can avoid a complete collapse like last season and still finish near or at .500.

Hot Tix

The Packers play a pre-season game at Buffalo at 5 p.m. Saturday. It will be shown on the statewide Packers' network.

If you want to watch football locally, you'll have to go to Racine, where the Raiders host the Indiana Tornados at 7 p.m. Saturday in a NAFL game. The Marauders, the Milwaukee team in that league, plays the McHenry Gladiators in Elgin, Ill., on the same night.

The Brewers are at Houston for a weekend series. They return to Miller Park next Tuesday to start a 12-game home stand.

Wave United plays the Celtic Soccer Club at 7 p.m. Thursday as part of Irish Fest. The game is at Uihlein Soccer Park.

Thirty-six central city Milwaukee teens are experiencing the first ever Hoops With Hope at Camp Gray, Reedsburg. The camp opened Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Former Marquette coach and athletic director Hank Raymonds is serving as the Hope Co-Chairman with Joel Claassen, 14-time state girls basketball championship coach and current head boys coach at Pius XI High School. Collegiate student athletes from Marquette University, Viterbo College and other schools are serving as staff.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.