Wisconsin led Michigan 19-0 in Michigan Stadium Saturday as the third quarter clock showed just three minutes to play. Over the next 13 minutes, the Badgers completely imploded to allow the Wolverines 27 points in a row. When Wisconsin couldn't make up enough points during the final five minutes, the Badgers 0-1 were in Big Ten play thanks to a stunning 27-25 loss.
As a result, no one seems to know which Wisconsin team will show up in Camp Randall Stadium under the bright lights. The Buckeyes could be walking into a trap to face an amped up team intent on erasing memories of the collapse. On the other hand, the sobering hangover from the loss could prevent the Badgers from playing at a high level.
Obviously, Ohio State expects the former.
"I think when you're playing a good team that didn't play as well as they could the week before, you're going to get a better team than maybe you would have if everything was just wonderful," head coach Jim Tressel said.
There remains a question, though, about just how good the Badgers are. A year ago, they gutted through a tough 9-4 season that saw them lose to Penn State, Illinois, Ohio State and Tennessee. The losses to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions were of the blowout variety, and a number of troubling themes emerged.
Wisconsin finished just fifth in the Big Ten in total offense; sixth in the conference in scoring offense, rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense; seventh in passing offense and turnover margin; and a woeful ninth in both sacks and sacks allowed.
Through the first seven halves of football, many of those problems had been rectified as the Badgers plastered Akron and Marshall and defeated No. 21 Fresno State on the road before taking the big lead against Michigan into the half.
The second half of that game was a different story. Wisconsin allowed 241 yards in the second half, committed two turnovers while causing none and allowed two sacks while getting none.
Tressel floated a theory that perhaps the team's early success led to a bit of overconfidence – and that the resulting crash to earth could have just the opposite effect.
"It's our instincts to want to do better when we didn't do as well, even though you'd think, well, our instincts ought to be I want to do better when I just did well," he said. "I'm not sure that's as human as the former."
Ohio State has had to go through similar adversity. The Buckeyes' lost a highlighted nonconference game to USC, the third in a streak of important nonconference games OSU dropped that left them down in the eyes of many national observers.
"I know based off of how we came out after the USC game that things were a lot more intense in practice that entire week," safety Anderson Russell said. "I would imagine that their coaches would do the exact same thing for them."
The word from Madison is that the team is struggling to deal with the loss, though.
"Guys are down but you can only spend so much time feeling sorry for yourself," senior defensive tackle Mike Newkirk told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I guarantee one thing: Ohio State ain't feeling sorry for us. They're getting ready to come in here and stomp us.
"So we've got to be ready to answer the call."
The Buckeyes expect that come Saturday night with a packed house behind them that the Badgers will be ready.
"It's a big home game for them," defensive end Lawrence Wilson said. "It's a night game. They're definitely going to be coming out no matter what, even if they had won the last game."