Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Buckeyes, Badgers will be at their best
By Adam Rittenberg
One team gets a boost from the distinctive horn fanfare of a 1992 hip-hop hit, not to mention the seismic event that ensues each time the song is played.
The other team subscribes to a philosophy used by the Navy SEALs every time it hits the road for a showdown in hostile territory.
The Badgers are 40-4 at Camp Randall Stadium since the start of the 2004 season.
Both methods have brought tremendous success for No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.
The Badgers are 40-4 on their home field since the start of the 2004 season, the best home mark in the Big Ten during that span (Ohio State is 40-5). Perhaps more impressive, Ohio State is 19-1 in its past 20 Big Ten road games, and the Buckeyes have captured their past eight road contests against ranked Big Ten opponents.
Translation: Both the Badgers and the Buckeyes will be at their best Saturday night when they meet at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
But only one team will walk out a winner.
"I'm excited that they have that great road record and we have that great home record because it’s going to be an even playing field," Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt said.
"But on the same note, I know our crowd’s going to come and they’re going to get unbelievably insane."
Watt will never forget the first time he was on the field at Camp Randall at the end of the third quarter. Ever since the 1998 homecoming game at Purdue, Wisconsin has played the House of Pain hit "Jump Around" between the third and fourth quarters of every home game.
Told by rapper Everlast to, "Get out your seats and jump around," more than 80,000 fans follow orders, literally shaking the stadium.
"You look up and see every single person jumping around," Watt said, "goose bumps isn’t even the word to describe it. Electricity isn’t the word to describe it. It’s unbelievable, and the amount of energy that you feel is unlike anything else.
"The play immediately after 'Jump Around' is always my best play of the game because of how much excitement I have."
Wisconsin certainly isn't the only college football team with a huge home-field edge, but "Jump Around" brings a unique twist that can directly affect the outcome of games.
"Every team gets a lift at the beginning of the game when they run out in front of their crowd, but our crowd gives us that added lift with 'Jump Around,'" Watt said. "That fourth quarter is run on pure adrenaline."
Ohio State doesn't tune out the environment; just the opposite, in fact. But whenever the Buckeyes depart Columbus, Ohio for a road game, coach Jim Tressel gets his players to heighten their level of focus.
Before the 2009 season, Tressel had Ohio State's seniors read a best-selling book by a former Navy SEAL about a 2005 mission to Afghanistan. Among other things, players learned about the approach the SEALs took when entering enemy territory.
"There are these cities over there where basically you could turn around and they're going to be shooting at you," Ohio State defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said. "They’re nicknamed blackslide cities. So we take that blackslide mentality of, you're going in and there's hostiles all around. Nobody’s really rooting for you, you only take 70 guys so you close your ranks, you don't have as many fans, people aren’t supporting you and you're going into a hostile environment."
Coach Jim Tressel encourages players to enjoy the experience of big road games.
Ohio State's road trips are serious business, but Tressel also encourages his players to soak in the experience. When Ohio State visited Camp Randall in 2008, Malcolm Jenkins and other Buckeyes players joined in with "Jump Around."
"We have this saying, ‘When the crowd gets louder, we play better,'" Larimore said. "When it gets louder, when it gets crazier, play better, play more intense. Act like it's your home."
One of Tressel's talking points to players, even during the recruiting process, is the importance of having fun on the road.
"You’re going to have X number of fun games here at Ohio State, but you’re going to get to go have fun at these other places," Tressel said. "You get to play twice in your career at Penn State or Michigan or Camp Randall or Iowa, and you’re going to remember it. From the time we meet them, we talk about what fun that’s going to be. So they anticipate it."
Ohio State has had plenty of fun in other Big Ten venues, winning 16 consecutive conference road games before stumbling last year at Purdue. Although Watt points out that "Ohio State's road record wasn't playing in Camp Randall Stadium every single week," the Buckeyes have won three of their past four contests in Madison.
Another added element is Saturday's late kickoff time (7 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. local). Wisconsin is 25-3 in its past 28 night games, but one of those losses came against Ohio State in 2008.
"It seems to be very offsetting, which actually excites me," Watt said. "Whichever team wins, I don't want it to be because it was at home or because it was on the road. You want to watch a football game and know that two great football teams are playing against each other, and whichever team plays better on that day is going to come out with the victory."