The Big Ten has undergone a pretty significant shake-up over the past five to six years. With the addition of Nebraska they expanded from 11 to 12 teams. They divided the 12 teams into the Leaders and Legends divisions. After Maryland and Rutgers entered the league, they re-aligned once again and separated the divisions geographically into an east and a west region.
All those transitions have caused some unusual occurences in the conference as far as matchups between programs. Many will find it surprising to know that nobody on the Iowa roster has ever played in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. The Hawkeyes and Badgers have battled but it's been in Kinnick Stadium. There were also some lapses and time off in the series. It even caught linebacker Josey Jewell by surprise.
"We haven't had anyone that's been to Madison?", he asked after being informed. "It's just another road game. We have to stay focused on what we want to do."
With divisions aligned the way they are now, both Iowa and Wisconsin are in the West and will see a lot of each other. They'll face off every season, which is the way it should be. Still, it is odd to think no Iowa player has ever experienced the atmosphere in Madison and the special intricacies of the place that lend to a sensational environment for football.
"It is weird," senior Austin Blythe agreed. "At the same time, it's just another road game. We have to be ready, focused, and laser sharp."
The Hawkeyes have had one road test so far on the year and that was in Ames. They went into halftime trailing the Cyclones but came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. It will take that kind of effort and then some because the atmosphere and crowd in Madison present a different beast than what they saw at Iowa State. A slow start is not advised.
"Their fight song has already been playing in the locker room," starting quarterback C.J. Beathard noted. "I'm sure the next couple of days we'll have some crowd noise in practice to prepare for that. We know what the atmosphere will be like. We have to be ready for that. I'm not seeing red or anything like that. I've never played there. A lot of our guys haven't. It's going to be fun. We're excited. It's the first Big Ten game. Usually the Wisconsin game is later on in the yera and this year it is the first Big Ten game of the season."
"It's definitely important," Jordan Walsh shared about it being a trophy game, for the Heartland Trophy. "We haven't seen it since 2009. We haven't had anyone play in Madison before. That will be a challenge as well. It is weird. It's a good new challenge for us. I think everyone is excited for this game."
It will be more of a hostile environment than the one they saw in Ames, and star running back Jordan Canzeri knows that. These are the types of games that brings teams closer according to him, because it becomes an 'us against the world' setting.
"I would say so (a little weird not having played in Madison before) a little bit," Canzeri admitted. "Obviously speaking outside of the competition, playing another team to beat and focusing on the win, just as a person it's an awesome experience to travel to the amount of stadiums that I have. The Big Ten has great stadiums. Wisconsin has an awesome base. It will be a hostile environment. It doesn't matter where we're playing them, but the fact that we're going up there, we will be ready for the hostile environment. It's going to push us because it's just going to be us up t here. When you're in a hostile environment against that much red, it makes you come and unify even a lot more. We'll get closer than we already have been."