The unfriendly confines.
Camp Randall Stadium.
It’s been a house of horrors for Ohio State. In the past 13 trips to Madison, the Buckeyes are 6-6-1. Four times they’ve entered undefeated and four times they’ve left without a win. Thrice the Badgers have ended long Ohio State winning streaks at Camp Randall. In 1958, it was a 13-game unbeaten streak, while the “Lee Evans Game” in 2003 ended a 19-game Ohio State winning streak. The Buckeyes had been victors of 12 consecutive games over two seasons when they lost at Wisconsin in 2010.
On Saturday, Wisconsin is looking to continue that trend.
The Ohio State-Wisconsin game, once an afterthought, has grown into one of the top games in not only the Big Ten but also the country. Prior to the 1981 season, the Buckeyes had not tasted defeat to the Badgers since 1959. The series has tightened considerably ever since. Over the past 20 years, Ohio State holds a slight 15-11-1 advantage. It’s even closer when you only consider games played since 1999 – 6-5 in favor of the Buckeyes.
In the past two seasons each team has delivered a crushing blow to the other. In 2010, Ohio State arrived in Madison undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country. But in front of a national television audience and under the night sky, Wisconsin ran roughshod over the Buckeyes, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and winning, 31-18.
Last season, Ohio State returned the favor, sending an already-reeling Badger football team to even lower depths. Wisconsin came into the game off a heartbreaking defeat to Michigan State, a game that ended on a Hail Mary. The Buckeyes closed out the game in similar fashion, on a Braxton Miller-to-Devin Smith 40-yard prayer that was answered in the final minutes.
The annual meetings are almost certain to carry heavy significance for years to come, as well, with Ohio State and Wisconsin competing in the Leaders Division. Illinois, Indiana, Penn State and Purdue aren’t likely to be competitive in the near future.
“When the divisions came out and Ohio State was in our division, I thought that was a great thing for us just because we knew we were going to get to play them every year,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said.
Saturday’s game will be the division clincher for Ohio State if it wins. But Wisconsin will represent the division in the Big Ten championship game due to the Buckeyes’ postseason ban.
“We’re in a race that we’re trying to win the Leaders Division crown,” Bielema said. “Ohio State is at the top of the list. We’re in a race to finish at the top of our division, and this opportunity this week is a chance to play the team that’s at that No. 1 spot.”