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Cutting through the stakes

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's no need to dig up a feud between the coaches to create any motivation for Ohio State players.

That hatchet has apparently been both buried and had its size exaggerated, and won't be on Urban Meyer's mind this week.

The Ohio State coach also hasn't had much need to bust out the polls, talk about winning a division trophy or even bring up the possibility that still exists of sneaking into the conversation for a national title in The Associated Press poll with an unbeaten season.

The Buckeyes have no shortage of tricks they could pull out to fire up the troops this week if necessary. But in the rivalry with Wisconsin, the bad blood has been flowing naturally enough on its own.

Regardless of all the potential story lines that might surround the two programs, at least for the Buckeyes, memories of their recent encounters with the Badgers are the only reminder they seem to need to narrow their focus for Saturday's trip to Camp Randall.

"It's always a physical war," Ohio State center Corey Linsley said. "It's always between teams, at least it has been the last few years, to decide who is going to go [to a BCS game], who is going to be the Big Ten champion.

"The Team Up North [Michigan] has kind of been out of the picture for a while. Penn State has come in and out, but the last couple years it's been Wisconsin and Ohio State. That's the same thing this year."

The circumstances aren't exactly the same as perhaps they have been heading into the last couple meetings, thanks mostly to the NCAA sanctions that have made the Buckeyes ineligible for the Big Ten championship game and the postseason.

The Badgers also had to receive a bit more help to ensure a spot in the conference title game. The penalties slapped on Penn State, combined with the ineptitude at the bottom of the Leaders Division, have already allowed them to clinch the spot an eligible Buckeyes team would have earned with a victory Saturday.

That might put a bit of a damper on the national impact of the latest meeting in an increasingly heated rivalry compared to the upset the Badgers sprung on top-ranked Ohio State two years ago or the way the Buckeyes returned the favor with a late rally a season ago against the eventual Big Ten champions. But it certainly didn't change the mood on the practice field during a rare Monday morning workout for the Buckeyes as they returned from their bye week.

"Bad blood? I think whenever you have two good teams who have played for a lot the past three or four years -- if that's considered bad blood, I think it's an intense respect," Meyer said. "They know what's coming; I can tell the way they practiced. They're smarter than the coaches; they can see what's coming.

"I always worry about the ones they don't have respect for. That's the one where you've got to rah-rah, cheer them on and scream and yell and throw things. Other than teaching technique, we didn't have to teach them to go hard. That's an indication of the respect they have for the team we're playing."

Meyer offered up his own respect for the Badgers as well, and he also suggested there was "never any issue" between he and Bielema despite some headlines the latter made in regard to Ohio State's recruitment of committed players.

But if that feud was blown out of proportion and is over now, that doesn't change the fact there is no love lost between the two programs. And the on-the-field battle is ready to resume.

"I'm sure they hate us," senior Zach Boren said. "I'm sure they're sitting there saying a lot of the same things. ... Wisconsin is a lot like us. A team that is physical, always out there working hard.

"We've had such big games against them, and I would say after that 2010 game where we were No. 1 in the country and went up there and got beat, there was just a bad taste in our mouth. Ever since then, we've just had this little rivalry with them -- and I'm sure they're excited as well to play us."

No matter what might or might not be on the line this time.