Taking the Show on the Road

After bombarding opponents at home and in Chicago, No.4 Wisconsin will embark on the toughest part of its schedule with a trip to Michigan State next Saturday, the only team the Badgers lost to last season. After finding comforts at home, the Badgers are ready for the challenge.

MADISON - As he sat at home watching Wisconsin's first Big Ten Conference road game against Michigan State a season ago, Chris Borland felt aches and pains in more places than just his bum left shoulder.

Borland watched in disbelief as the Badgers, after playing fairly clean football en route to a 4-0 start, became mistake-prone and appeared to lack preparation during their 34-24 loss to the Spartans in East Lansing.

"I was watching that game in my living room last year, and it was pretty tough to watch," said Borland, now a sophomore linebacker for Wisconsin, who missed most of last year with a shoulder injury. "Everybody remembers that taste in our mouths, so we are excited to face Michigan State."

After routing their sixth opponent of the season Saturday in Indiana, 59-7 at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers will play their first true road game next Saturday against none other than the Spartans.

While No. 4 Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) does have a road game under its belt at Soldier Field against Northern Illinois, No. 23 Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) should present a much bigger challenge for the Badgers, though they know that all too well.

"Everybody did their best, but I think that hurt just because we knew we could have won that game," said sophomore guard Travis Frederick, who redshirted last season but made the trip. "It just kind of put a damper on what we thought we had."

After coming out of its nonconference schedule unblemished last season, Wisconsin looked nothing like it had earlier in the year during its game at Michigan State.

The Badgers committed an uncharacteristically high number of untimely penalties and surrendered a season-worst 444 yards to the Spartans' offense. Even Scott Tolzien, who set a single-season school record with a 72.9 percent completion percentage last year, completed just 11 of 25 passes at East Lansing.

"It was really terrible because we felt like we were going to come out with a ‘W,'" junior running back Montee Ball said. "We went in not prepared, we had a few penalties, couple mistakes. That just hurt us."

Even though the team's loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl a season ago stung quite a bit, some players think the loss to Michigan State was even more disheartening.

"It was a much harder loss because that was the first loss of the season," senior cornerback Antonio Fenelus said. "Every loss is bad. It's not a good feeling. We definitely remember that game from last year, so we're going to make sure we prepare this week and come out ready to go."

While Wisconsin entered last year's game at East Lansing with high expectations, the Badgers may enter next Saturday's game with even greater aspirations.

Wisconsin has beaten each of its opponents by more than 30 points this season to become a legitimate national title contender in the eyes of many.

But in order to become a serious title contender, the Badgers will need to prove they can play well away from home, and the three teams ranked ahead of them (LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma) have already done that.

"Win Big Ten games on the road, that's when you win championships," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "That's when you have an opportunity to put yourself in a better position. I think our guys will embrace the opportunity. It's very unique, and it's one you've got to play disciplined football. I think they'll excited about the challenge."

While the Badgers are riding high now, they could learn how good they truly are next weekend. The team's first road game was played in front of a number of Wisconsin fans in Chicago, but Badgers fans will be scarce next Saturday at East Lansing.

"I believe that we know each other and we know how we all play," Wilson said. "We have to step up, obviously. In big games, you wait for those moments, and that's the exciting part about it. We're excited to play Michigan State. They're a great team. It's going to be a great game going there. It's going to be fun."

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