Buckeyes fired up for Badgers

Wisconsin’s Camp Randall has been hostile territory in past

11/13/2012
BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS — This game does not com­pare to The Game.

Ohio State play­ers let there be no mis­take of that as they be­gan prep­a­ra­tions for Satur­day’s show­down at Wis­con­sin.

For one, they will re­fer to the Badgers by name. This week’s op­po­nent is not the team way up north but sim­ply Wis­con­sin. Even when Mich­i­gan or OSU is down, there can be no sur­ro­gate for The Game.

Of the UM ri­valry, Buck­eyes cen­ter Co­rey Lin­s­ley said, “It’s in a dif­fer­ent ball­park.”

Wisconsin's Montee Ball runs 49 yards for a touchdown against Indiana on Saturday, when the Badgers piled up more than 500 rushing yards.
Wisconsin's Montee Ball runs 49 yards for a touchdown against Indiana on Saturday, when the Badgers piled up more than 500 rushing yards.

Yet to watch Mon­day’s prac­tice was to be­hold an in­ten­sity and crackle of­ten re­served only for the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

The sixth-ranked Buck­eyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) are ready to de­vour the main course of their un­likely sea­son.

After 10 weeks of ap­pe­tiz­ers fol­lowed by last week’s bye, Ohio State’s sea­son comes down to back-to-back meet­ings with its two big­gest ri­vals — one re­cent and one age-old.

Beat Wis­con­sin, and the Buck­eyes clinch the Lead­ers di­vi­sion out­right. Beat UW and Mich­i­gan, and they will claim the pro­gram’s first un­beaten sea­son since 2002.

“They know what's com­ing,” coach Ur­ban Meyer said. “I al­ways worry about the ones they don't have re­spect for, and that's when we got to rah-rah and cheer them on and scream and yell and throw things and all that. We didn't have to teach them to go hard to­day.”

Wis­con­sin (7-3, 6-2), which has skated to a bid in the con­fer­ence ti­tle game with Lead­ers di­vi­sion ri­vals OSU and Penn State both in­el­i­gi­ble, can have that ef­fect. As de­fen­sive tackle Johna­than Han­kins said, “There’s just some­thing we don’t like about them, and that’s the way it’s go­ing to con­tinue to be.”

In a black-and-blue show­down teem­ing with sto­ry­lines — on the field and off — Satur­day’s meet­ing at Camp Ran­dall Sta­dium will mark the lat­est edi­tion of one of the con­fer­ence’s best con­tem­po­rary ri­val­ries.

The schools have taken turns spoil­ing sea­sons of great ex­pec­ta­tion the last two falls, with the top-ranked Buck­eyes fall­ing 31-18 at No. 18 Wis­con­sin in 2010 be­fore eve­ning the score in gut-punch­ing fash­ion last sea­son. Brax­ton Miller’s on-the-move 40-yard touch­down pass to Devin Smith with 20 sec­onds re­main­ing lifted OSU to a 33-29 vic­tory — and handed the Big Ten cham­pi­ons their sec­ond straight last-minute loss.

“It's in­ter­est­ing hear­ing our play­ers talk about it, es­pe­cially ones that I lis­ten to, guys that have been in some of those big games,” Meyer said. “This is a ri­valry game.”

Meyer’s in­tro­duc­tion to the mod­ern ver­sion of it fig­ures to be just as in­tense, with Wis­con­sin in­stalled as a 1½-point fa­vor­ite.

The Badgers have en­dured a dif­fi­cult year, from a tu­mul­tu­ous off­sea­son marred by an off-cam­pus beat­ing that left star run­ning Mon­tee Ball with a con­cus­sion to an un­steady fall. Frus­tra­tion peaked af­ter Wis­con­sin’s 10-7 loss to Ore­gon State in Week 2 when coach Bret Bielema fired first-year of­fen­sive line coach Mike Marku­son. (Former of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Paul Chryst took line coach Bob Bostad with him when he was hired at Pitts­burgh.)

The Badgers, though, looked like their old bul­ly­ing selves in a 62-14 vic­tory over In­di­ana last week. With third-string quar­ter­back Curt Phil­lips start­ing in place of in­jured starter Joel Stave (bro­ken col­lar­bone) and strug­gling Mary­land trans­fer Davey O’Brien, Ball and Co. rushed for a school-record 564 yards — the most by a Big Ten team since 1994.

The Badgers’ plan comes with lit­tle sus­pense: They want to cram it down your throat, though that plays to OSU’s strength. The Buck­eyes, who will be lifted by the re­turn of se­nior line­backer Eti­enne Sabino (bro­ken leg), have played their best against packed-in pro-style of­fenses.

“Every time you play Wis­con­sin you’re go­ing to be beat up at the end of the day,” de­fen­sive end John Si­mon said. “We’re go­ing to find out who’s tougher.”

As for bruis­ing off the field, Satur­day also marks the first meet­ing be­tween Bielema and Meyer. There was no love lost be­tween the two last win­ter when Bielema in­di­rectly ac­cused Meyer of un­eth­i­cally pur­su­ing re­cruits com­mit­ted to other Big Ten schools, tell­ing the Sport­ing News, “We in the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC.” Meyer de­nied break­ing any rules and told Big Ten com­mis­sioner Jim Delany to ask Bielema to apol­o­gize.

Bielema on Mon­day called the re­cruit­ing con­tro­versy "a lot to do about noth­ing," though he added, "I learned early on in my coach­ing ca­reer you lose more friends in re­cruit­ing in the coach­ing world than you do on game days."

Meyer has re­peat­edly said he and Bielema have since mended their re­la­tion­ship.

“I have a lot of re­spect for his team,” Meyer said. “Other than that, we're fine.”

Con­tact David Briggs at:dbriggs@the­blade.com,419-724-6084, or onTwit­ter @DBriggsBlade.