Ohio State senior center Mike Brewster is jealous of the Badgers from that standpoint, seeing as he hasn't been involved in too many primetime kickoffs in front of the 102,329 fans that usually pack Ohio Stadium.
"You don't get too many night games in the Shoe, so you have to cherish them," said Brewster, who has been a part of three home night games in his tenure (1-2). "They are unbelievable to take part in. It's similar to what Camp Randall is like. I think it's going to be rowdy, fans having been drinking all day and a great environment."
It's going to be just the environment Ohio State will need to keep its momentum going when it faces No.12 Wisconsin at 7 p.m. Saturday.
After back-to-back embarrassments to Michigan State and Nebraska, forcing them to start 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2004, the Buckeyes (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) have had two weeks to prepare after going on the road and beating then-No. 16 Illinois 17-7 on Oct. 15, meaning a win over Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) puts Ohio State back into the thick of the division race.
It's a step in the right direction for a program that has endured a turbulent offseason that has caused by illegal benefits, multiple players suspended, last year's Big Ten championship season vacated, head coach Jim Tressel fired and quarterback Terrelle Pryor leaving for the NFL supplemental draft.
"We've been through so much and it is refreshing and reviving that we control our own destiny," Brewster said. "There's a whole new outlook for us. We have grown so much since the start of the season and it's up to us to take advantage."
After scoring only seven points against the Spartans and blowing a 27-6 lead at Nebraska, giving up scoring drives of 23, 80, 72 and 78 yards, Ohio State went back to its roots against the Illini, forcing three turnovers – two of which led to points – and held an offense averaging almost 450 yards and 34.7 points a game to 285 yards and, until the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter, no points.
Playing his first game since January after sitting out six games as a result of his role in a cash-for-memorabilia scandal and then for taking too much money for a summer job, senior running back Dan Herron and his fresh legs made all the difference for the Buckeyes' offense, as he rushed 23 times for 114 yards and a touchdown as the Buckeyes relied almost exclusively on the ground game.
Ohio State had 55 offensive plays in Champaign. Fifty-one were runs and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller completed 1 of 4 passes for 17 yards and a touchdown.
"You can tell that he is fresh," linebacker Chris Borland said of Herron, who rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns in last year's 31-18 defeat in Madison. "The suspension that he served, served him well. He's fresh and ready to go."
It will provide another test after members of Wisconsin's defense chalk up its last game as a system breakdown. In the 37-31 loss at East Lansing, sending the Badgers tumbling eight spots in the polls and ending their national championship aspirations, Wisconsin allowed Michigan State to go 8-for-16 on third downs, 1-1 on fourth downs and average close to seven yards on first downs.
What was more disappointing? Flip a coin according to linebacker Mike Taylor.
"The whole game," Taylor said. "It sucks to lose like that. A lot of uncharacteristic things happened. Defense, tackling, offense throwing interception, blocked kicks, safety … you wish you could have it back but there's nothing we can do about it except move on."
Ohio State doesn't bring in the same credentials that the Spartans do, converting only 35 percent of the time on third down, rank 115th in the country in passing yards (127.9 per game), 110th in total offense (302.9) and 88th in points (23.3), but Borland recognizes that Wisconsin can't assume anything, especially with a team having an extra week to prepare.
"They have a talented group, and we're expecting more than four throws," said Borland.
In addition to expecting a more balanced offense, Wisconsin's defenders are expecting a better performance. Just like Ohio State stopped its season from spiraling out of control with a win over Illinois, Wisconsin is hoping to turn its ship around quickly, starting with a bitter defensive unit.
"That's something we pride ourselves on, trying to keep points off the board," Taylor said. "Obviously we gave up a few points, but in situations like that where we have to get a stop, we need a stop. You like to see the defense step up … and I think we're going to."
No.12/No.15 (AP/BCS) Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten - Leaders) vs. Ohio State (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten – Legends)
Date/Time - Saturday, October 29 at 7:06 p.m. CT
Stadium –Ohio Stadium (102,329/FieldTurf)
Television - ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas), Westwood One Radio (Brian David, Eddie George), Sirius Ch.92
Series – Ohio State leads 53-18-5 (28-7-3 in Columbus)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 31-18, on Oct. 16, 2011 in Madison
Since, 1999, the teams have split the last 10 meetings, with the Badgers winning three of the five meetings in Columbus.
This will be just the second time since 1974 that Wisconsin will go to Columbus as a ranked team. The last time was 2004 when the Badgers were ranked 15th and won 24-13.
UW tight ends coach Joe Rudolph got his coaching start at Ohio State, serving two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant and one year as the strength coordinator.
This will be the first time since 1963 that Wisconsin will square off with Ohio State as the only ranked team. The Buckeyes had been ranked in the last 12 meetings between the teams.
Despite losing its leading sack producer from last year (J.J. Watt), Wisconsin is fourth in the Big Ten with 14 QB sacks. Nine different players have combined on the 18 sacks.
UW is sixth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just an average of 13.6 points per game. Wisconsin has allowed fewer than 15.0 points per game just three times since 1963 (1998, 1999, 2006).
The Badgers are fourth in the country in pass defense, allowing just 165.6 yards per game through the air. Michigan State is the only team to pass for more than 200 yards against UW this season.
Wisconsin is averaging 7.7 yards per play, trailing only Houston (7.8) in the country. Last year, with the most prolific offense in school history, the Badgers averaged 6.7 yards per play.
The last time a UW running back fumbled was James White against San Jose State in the second game of last season. Since then, Badger running backs have carried the ball 713 times, caught 59 passes and returned 34 kickoffs (806 total touches) without putting the ball on the turf (not just fumbles LOST, they have not fumbled at all).
Ohio State Notes:
Since the beginning of the 2005 season, the Ohio State defense has allowed only 13 100-yard rushers during a span of 85 games and only nine since the start of the 2007 season. Both of those marks are the third best among FBS schools during those spans.
After the loss to Miami in week 3 the Buckeyes fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 20, 2004 -- nearly 7 years and ending the nation's longest current streak of appearances in the Top 25 (103 straight weeks).
All-American center Mike Brewster started his 43rd consecutive game Saturday at Nebraska. The senior from Orlando, Fla. made his first start in Game 4 of the 2008 season vs. Troy and started the final 10 games of the season. He started all 13 games in 2009 and 2010, respectively, in addition to the first six games this year.
Herron has rushed for at least one TD in his last 13 games, longest run for a Buckeye since Pete Johnson ran for at least one score in 13 consecutive games from 1975-76. Keith Byars ran for at least one rushing TD in 21 straight games during the 1983-84 seasons.
It's not exactly the 12-step program, but members of Wisconsin football, particularly the defense, have gone through a cleansing process in the 24 hours following its Hail Mary defeat. In other words, they have accepted the loss, have guilt about the loss, have gone through rehab to fix the mistakes and have had their awakening, putting the past behind them.
"You have to accept it," Taylor said. "You wish it didn't happen, but it did happen and the more you dwell on it and look back and ask why it happened, it's just going to tear you apart more," Taylor said. "It's a loss. Now, it's about trying to get better and we have a great opportunity this week against Ohio State to get our momentum back. Hopefully we can do that."
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and every member of the Badgers that has talked to the media this week has taken that same approach – we know we screwed up, there's nothing we can do about it, so let's not dwell on it.
It's not the easiest opponent for a pick-me up victory, but sometimes those victories are the most satisfying. The Buckeyes are a shell of a team they were last season – even two seasons ago – and are not of the same caliber of Michigan State. The Badgers are 7-point favorites against a team with virtually no offensive rhythm, but with a defense that is physical, creates turnovers and plays well at home.
When Wisconsin plays smart, it can beat anybody in the country. The Badgers have been fast starters in averaging 28.0 points per first half, a better mark than Ohio State's 23.3 average for the entire game, but were held to only 14 first-half points against MSU. Consider that last stat an abnormality.
Wisconsin is a better football team than Ohio State and in those instances, the better team wins 9 out of 10 times. It's the same instance as last week. Wisconsin got shocked last week and the players said they've learned from it. I tend to believe they are right.
Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 21
Straight up: 6-1
Against the Spread: 5-2
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