With a victory Saturday, the Badgers will pull even with Ohio State in that important recruiting category.
Riding a defense that has dominated its last two opponents, allowing only six points in eight quarters, Wisconsin's defense will take on its toughest challenge yet when UW travels to No.1 Ohio State, a school seeking its 20th straight conference victory.
On nobody's national title radar at the beginning of the season, the Buckeyes have rode their dominating defense all the way to the top of the BCS standings with only three weeks left. The Buckeye defense ranks first nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 8.9 points per game, and first in total defense, allowing just 214.6 yards per game.
Oh yeah, the Ohio State defense has allowed only five touchdowns all season.
"That's going to be the ultimate challenge for us so far this season," quarterback Tyler Donovan said. "It's something that as an offense, we are looking forward to because we'll see what we are all about when we're playing a good Ohio State team."
While the defense has been the backbone all the season for the Buckeyes, the OSU offense has seemingly caught up to the defense. Quarterback Todd Boeckman threw for a career high 253 yards against Penn State's hard-hitting defense and has thrown 21 touchdowns to just eight interceptions on the season. The junior ranks third in the nation with a 164.3 passer rating.
Sophomore running back Chris Wells needs just four yards to reach 1,000 yards on the season and become the 25th Ohio State running back to reach that mark. In his last two games, Wells has rushed for 354 yards.
"They run well and they play well together as a unit," offensive lineman Kraig Urbik said. "Overall, their teamwork and how they play together (is the most impressive)."
Ohio State has been impressive in its last six meetings with Wisconsin, being ranked in the top 25 in each of the meetings. That hasn't stopped Wisconsin from dominating the series since 1999. Wisconsin has won four of its last six meetings against Ohio State, including winning on its last three trips to Ohio Stadium.
No Big Ten team has won four straight at Ohio State since Illinois accomplished the feat from 1988-94.
"History is an important lesson to learn," head coach Bret Bielema said. "We all had to learn it growing up, and in a football program, we always talk about history, but understand that this year's team and the success we have on Saturday we based on the results that we do. It's important to point it out because, obviously, it can be done."
Over the last two weeks, the Badger defense has turn from turnover inept to turnover savvy.
Wisconsin has forced seven turnovers in its last two contests, including five last week against Indiana. After holding the Hoosiers No.2 conference offense to a season-low three points, the Badger secondary is overflowing with confidence heading into Columbus.
"When you watch and prepare, they are just like any other team," Ohio native Shane Carter said. "They have 11 guys on the field and great athletes just like everyone else in the Big Ten. We have to put aside the fact that they are No.1 and go out there and play ball."
After falling off the national radar, Wisconsin is presented with a big opportunity to get back in the Big Ten race. The Badgers are 3-14 all-time against teams ranked No.1 in the nation, including 1-5 against the Buckeyes.
After being left for dead just a couple weeks ago, the Badgers are looking to continue making a statement in Columbus.
"It's all about opportunity and this is a great opportunity for our team," Donovan said. We're not getting sidetracked from the 1-0 philosophy. It's just another game, but it's a big game because we have put ourselves in position to make it a big game."
"They're going to bring their ‘A' game and do what they do best," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "I'm glad we had these (last two games) going into this game.
"We're playing at the level we're supposed to be playing at and if feels good having the momentum that we have going into the final stretch."
Wisconsin (7-2) vs. No.1 Ohio State (9-0)
Date/Time - Saturday, Nov. 3, at 11:00 a.m CDT
Stadium – Ohio Stadium, Columbus (Prescription Athletic Turf / 102,329)
Television - Big Ten Network (Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Charissa Thompson)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)
Series – Ohio State leads 50-17-5
Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 24-13, on Oct. 9, 2004 in Columbus
Wisconsin's victories over Ohio State in 2001, 2003 and 2004 make the Badgers the only Big Ten school with at least three wins over Jim Tressel-coached Buckeye teams. The Badgers are the only Big Ten school to have a winning record over Tressel.
The Badgers lone victory over the Buckeyes when Ohio State was ranked No.1 came on Oct. 31, 1942.
Wisconsin has come from behind to win each of its last three games in Columbus, trailing 17-0 in 1999 and 2001 and 10-0 in 2004.
Wisconsin offensive line coach Bob Palcic coached the offensive line at Ohio State from 1986-91 and was on the UW staff the last time the Badgers defeated a No.1 ranked opponent (Michigan in 1981).
The last Wisconsin coach to win in his first visit to Ohio State was Guy Lowman in 1918.
The Badgers' defense is suddenly living up to preseason expectations, holding consecutive opponents to a field goal apiece. More importantly, the rush defense has come to life, holding Northern Illinois to minus 13 yards (second lowest in school history) and Indiana to 145. However, both wins came at home, where Wisconsin has won 13 straight, and against a beaten and battered Huskie squad and a young Hoosier squad.
Ohio State is playing the best football in the nation right now and its defense puts Wisconsin to shame, allowing a measly five touchdowns all season. On the other hand, the Badgers have been big underdogs heading into Columbus before and that hasn't stopped them from winning three straight at the Shoe.
In this crazy season of college football, every has got to lose something and, within, the next three weeks, it will be Ohio State's turn. The Badgers have trailed big the last three visits to Columbus and still have won, have regained their swagger defensively and will not give up like they did in the second half against Penn State.
What the heck?