Buckeyes To Take Their Shot At The "King"

In one corner, you have a team that has made three straight Rose Bowls. In the other, you have a traditional power coming off an undefeated season. Yes, Saturday's Ohio State-Wisconsin game is a big one, and it might go a long way toward determining the king of the hill this year. Until then, Urban Meyer has an opinion who is on top.

Ohio State was the only undefeated Big Ten team last season.

The Buckeyes were the lone squad to win all of their conference games as well, capturing the Leaders Division with an 8-0 mark that included a 21-14 overtime victory at Wisconsin.

Yet, what program was dubbed Monday by OSU coach Urban Meyer as the "king of the Big Ten right now"?

That would be the Wisconsin, which is the three-time defending conference champions to the chagrin of the Buckeyes, who because of one-year NCAA sanctions were ineligible to play in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game.

"It was frustrating, especially for the seniors because they kind of got robbed of postseason play," Ohio State senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said.

Not only were the Buckeyes unable to play for the championship but second-place Penn State (6-2 in conference play) was also ineligible.

That paved the way for the Badgers (4-4) to steamroll over Legends Division winner Nebraska 70-31 in Indianapolis to earn a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl.

"That's kind of an outside controversy," Ohio State senior center Corey Linsley said of the Badgers' most recent title.

"I didn't even watch the game," OSU senior safety Christian Bryant said.

Wisconsin senior linebacker and Kettering, Ohio, native Chris Borland knows there are some folks back in his home state who are itching to knock the Badgers off the top of the Big Ten's mountain.

"We've got the trophy but I'm sure we are considered the underdog," he said. "We're fine with that. We're fine with it either way. It really doesn't affect our preparation and it won't affect the way we compete on Saturday."

Maybe there is something to the Wisconsin band's tradition of playing "You've said it all." Its rendition, according to uwbadgers.com, "is a spinoff of the song ‘Budweiser, Here Comes the King.' "

Of course, Meyer might be using a little psychology to fire up the Buckeyes and their fans, as if any more fuel is needed for Saturday night's game in Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes are 4-0 while the Badgers are 3-1 but new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen doesn't see the matchup - the first in conference play for Ohio State; the Badgers opened the league schedule Saturday with a 41-10 win against Purdue – as one that will decide the Leaders Division.

"This is far from a championship game," he said. "This game probably will not. It will just be one game in the conference race."

But it still could be a classic based on the past three meetings. The Badgers stunned the top-ranked Buckeyes 31-18 in 2010 at Camp Randall Stadium and were headed to victory the following season in Columbus before then-freshman quarterback Braxton Miller connected with Devin Smith for a 40-yard touchdown heave with 20 seconds left for a 33-29 win.

Last season in Madison the Badgers tied the game with eight seconds left before a Carlos Hyde 2-yard run and a defensive stand led OSU to the OT win.

"It will be a high-energy game," Wisconsin junior running back Melvin Gordon said. "I know Ohio State has a thing for us, and we have a thing for them. We have been back and forth and those guys are playing at a high level right now, so it will be a tough game, but we will compete with them."

The Badgers' success on the gridiron and recent encounters with the Buckeyes' on the basketball court have made them Ohio State's second biggest rival behind, well, you know who.

But much of the vitriol has dissipated since bombastic head coach Bret Bielema left the Badgers after last season for the Arkansas job.

"I think he poked a lot of people," OSU junior wide receiver Evan Spencer said.

In Andersen the Badgers hired a man who was the defensive line coach for Meyer at Utah in 2004 when the Utes went 12-0 in Meyer's second season. They have remained friends over the years but Andersen downplayed their relationship and its effect on the game.

"My take is that it doesn't have anything to do with it," Andersen said.

In fact, several Buckeyes interviewed this week were more eager to talk about the start of the conference after four cupcake opponents than what it means to go against the Badgers.

"The Big Ten season has its own feel to it," Linsley said. "It's colder outside, practices are a little bit longer, preparation is a little more intense. Everything is amped up a little because it's conference play. It's nice to get back to this mentality. I missed it.

"You need these types of games to prove yourself, find out who you are."

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