But while the visiting Wisconsin Badgers are enjoying a three-game winning streak on the Buckeyes' home turf, OSU head coach Jim Tressel downplayed the possibility of bad blood existing between the two schools at his weekly press conference.
"There's always teams that you know they're good and you're going to get emotionally ready to play," he said. "Wisconsin is one of those. But bad blood? I'm not sure what that does for you other than distract you."
The Buckeyes enter the game as the nation's top-ranked team, sitting a perfect 9-0. A win over the Badgers would give them the longest conference winning streak in the history of the Big Ten, breaking a streak of 19 straight wins by Michigan from 1990-92. In addition, OSU has now won 27 consecutive regular season games, the longest such streak in school history.
But as the Buckeyes prepare for what could be a record-setting victory, they are coming off an impressive, nationally televised 37-17 road victory against Penn State on Saturday.
A big part of the victory was the play of junior quarterback Todd Boeckman, who was named the team's offensive player of the week for his performance after grading out at 88 percent. However, Tressel said the game plan did not involve a whole lot of checking and changing plays at the line of scrimmage, helping his team succeed in a decidedly hostile environment.
"We didn't want to go into that game with the thought in mind that we were going to allow the crowd to affect our communicating," Tressel said. "I thought our guys up front did a good job of handling watching the ball, along with having to have one eye on who they were going to block, and that made it even more difficult, but Todd did a good job in command of that game and continues to work hard to become a very good quarterback."
After entering the season as the starter by default in many ways, Tressel said the coaching staff had confidence in what Boeckman could do but still needed to see him perform in actual games. While he said he is not surprised that the native of St. Henry, Ohio, has had such success this season, Tressel listed a freshman as his biggest surprise of the team this season.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward, who earned the team's attack force player of the week honors for his five-tackle, one-sack performance against the Nittany Lions. He also was the only nominee for the Jack Tatum hit of the week award.
Asked to name the team's biggest surprise three quarters of the way through the season, Tressel pointed to the Georgia native.
"A guy like Cameron Heyward as a true freshman in the trenches, that's unusual," Tressel said. "Not that we didn't think he was very, very good and all that type of thing, but I guess that's one that jumps up at me, but I suppose I could look up and down the depth chart and that type of thing, but that's the first one that pops up."
Heyward's rise has been aided by injuries to junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson, the projected starter, and sophomore Rob Rose, the projected starter when Wilson went down with a broken leg in the first game of the season. While Rose took over as the starter for Wilson, Heyward has started the last four games as Rose has been hampered by both ineffective play and an undisclosed, nagging injury.
As Tressel named the winners of the team's weekly awards, he singled out the play of freshman Solomon Thomas. A defensive end from West Chester, Ohio, Thomas is going through a redshirt season but was named the scout team's defensive player of the week.
"We felt that we needed a great look at those ends and a lot of pressure on our pass protection, a lot of pressure on our run game and Solomon did an excellent job," Tressel said.
Junior offensive lineman Alex Boone earned the team's Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week award, with Tressel saying that the performance of the team's offensive tackles would be crucial toward earning a victory against PSU. Boone graded "a touch higher" than senior right tackle Kirk Barton.
"Penn State probably blitzed a little bit more than we anticipated," Tressel said. "I thought our guys, amidst the difficulty of communicating, picked up the one time we didn't make the right call and got sacked and so forth, but I thought the offensive line, from a communication standpoint, did an excellent job."
Junior linebacker Marcus Freeman, who recorded a team-high 14 tackles in the win, brought home defensive player of the week honors. In addition, junior kicker Ryan Pretorius' three field goals helped him win the team's special teams player of the week award.