Wisconsin-Ohio St. Preview
The first few moments after an Ohio State victory is usually a time for celebration and recognition.
Coach Urban Meyer and his assistants mention the top players from the game. Everyone applauds and pats the backs of those who are singled out.
Not this week.
So much for the 76-0 romp against overmatched Florida A&M. Not much more really could or should have been said about a glorified scrimmage against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Meyer moved right on to the 23rd-ranked Badgers because he knows his team is playing a team at an entirely different level.
After four middling-to-worse opponents, the No. 4 Buckeyes (4-0, 0-0) will truly be tested for the first time in primetime and on national television Saturday night.
"You come to Ohio State to compete for the Big Ten championship,'' Meyer said. "That starts (on Sunday). Actually, it started in a meeting just a minute ago. We have so much respect for the upcoming opponent and we have got to get the Buckeyes ready to go.''
That shouldn't be too difficult. They already are well aware of what's ahead.
If anyone got slighted by skimming over the major accomplishments of Ohio State's final nonconference game, it was backup quarterback Kenny Guiton. All he did was set a school record with six touchdown passes - all in the first half.
He said even though the win came against a 1-3 team from a lower division, it was still worthwhile.
"It's not really who you're playing against. It's evaluating yourself against your best self,'' he said. "You go out and play your best game. Are your fundamentals right? Did you have the right read?''
Guiton has been spectacular since taking over for star signal-caller Braxton Miller, who has missed the last two games and most of a third with a sprained medial-collateral ligament in his left knee. However, Miller will return as the starter against the Badgers.
"I think Braxton will probably start. He had a good day (Wednesday) and it looks like he's pretty close to 100 percent," Meyer said. "I just wanted to make sure running the ball he's good, too. And he was. And Kenny's good."
Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant, who blocked a punt against FAMU, said now is as good a time as any for the big games to begin.
"This is the time to sharpen up and get ready for the Big Ten season,'' he said. "I think our team did that and we're going to prepare well for the next game.''
Wisconsin and Ohio State have staged some epic games in the past few years. Just last season, the Buckeyes needed overtime in their next-to-last game to win 21-14, preserving what would end up being a 12-0 season.
A year earlier, despite a woeful 6-7 season, the biggest victory of the year was a memorable 33-29 win against the Badgers.
The teams traded wins in the two years before that, the Badgers inflicting the only loss on the field against the 2010 team (before the NCAA forced Ohio State to vacate the 12-1 season due to egregious violations by then-head coach Jim Tressel).
The Buckeyes come in with the nation's longest winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, 16 straight wins. It was the Badgers who ended it the last time Ohio State won this many in a row, winning 17-10 in 2003.
"Any Big Ten game is a serious game for us with our goals for the end of the season,'' said cornerback Bradley Roby, who had an interception and a 42-yard return against FAMU. "It's always a battle. They beat us (three) years ago when we were No. 1. We're ready for them.''
The Badgers (3-1, 1-0) tuned up for the showdown by pounding Purdue 41-10 in the season's first Big Ten game last Saturday.
They immediately turned their attention to Ohio State as well.
"Obviously everyone's really fired up about this game,'' noseguard Beau Allen said. "You've got to stay steady, I guess, but we're all fired up for it.''
The Badgers believe they will be helped by their lone loss, believe it or not. They traveled to Arizona State two weeks ago and in a muddled and botched finish - the Pac-12 officiating crew was reprimanded for its mishandling of it - they left with a 32-30 defeat. Quarterback Joel Stave awkwardly took a knee at the ASU 13 in the final seconds but the officials didn't stop the clock. Instead, they ran off the field without even offering an explanation.
Gary Andersen, in his first year at Wisconsin since taking over when Bret Bielema fled to Arkansas, said he thought it was an advantage that his team had at least played in an unfriendly environment this season.
"We're excited about going in there. It's going to be a great stadium,'' said Andersen, a former assistant to Meyer at Utah with whom he remains good friends. "The fact that we have gone on the road once and traveled is big for us. I know it's a tough place to play, but our kids, they'll be prepared.''
Ohio State, allowing an average of 116.1 yards on the ground, will be tasked with stopping a Wisconsin rushing attack that's third in the FBS with 349.8 yards per game. Melvin Gordon leads the country with 624 total and has scored seven touchdowns, tied for third in the nation. He's had plenty of help from James White (442 yards, three TDs) and freshman Corey Clement (334, four).
The trio had 386 of Wisconsin's 388 yards on the ground last week.
"It will be quite difficult. But we're going to attack it, we're going to attack practice, we're going to attack everything the same way,'' Gordon said. "I know Ohio State, they've got a thing for us and we've got a thing for them. We've been back and forth.''