7:00 PM ET, October 16, 2010
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio State Buckeyes have waltzed through their first six opponents on the way to becoming No. 1.
With a game on Saturday at No. 18 Wisconsin, staying there will be much harder.
"It's good to be No. 1, but if we don't play like it every week, then all the hype will be for naught," linebacker Brian Rolle said.
Not everyone believes the Buckeyes deserve to be No. 1. Critics point out that by the middle of October, the Buckeyes have played exactly one game away from their home stadium. Also, they haven't tackled anyone currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. (Miami was 12th at the time they lost in Columbus to the Buckeyes, but has since plummeted out of sight.)
At the same time, Ohio State fans are up in arms that mock Bowl Championship Series rankings a week before the first BCS list is released has the Buckeyes fifth. That is due to being downgraded by computers that take a dim view of the Buckeyes' (lack of) strength of schedule (Marshall, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Miami) and drop them way down below the TCUs and Boise States of the world in that category.
But a lot of the questions and doubts about Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) and its rise to the top spot in the polls should be answered this week when the Buckeyes head for Madison, Wis.
The Badgers (5-1, 1-1) are good and particularly good at home. They've gone 40-4 at Camp Randall Stadium since the start of the 2004 season. What's more, the game is at night, allowing an already rambunctious student section to get even more fired up for the big showdown. The Badgers have won 25 of their last 28 night games.
Linebacker Ross Homan said, "Playing there is so tough. You have to battle through a lot."
An environment like that intimidates some opponents and energizes others.
"I remember we went to Wisconsin my sophomore year," Rolle said, reflecting on the 2008 game. "It was ridiculous. I believe that student section is the best in the country."
The product on the field isn't bad, either.
Led by senior quarterback Scott Tolzien and tailbacks John Clay and James White, the Badgers are physical and tough and rank fourth in he Big Ten in total offense at 450 yards per game. It'll be a huge test for Ohio State's defense in particular.
"They know what they're heading into," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor shared Big Ten offensive player of the week honors with Clay, passing for a career-high 334 yards (24 of 30, 3 TDs) in a 38-10 rout of Indiana. Wisconsin is a red-letter game for him and his teammates.
"Without a doubt," he said. "It's always circled on the calendar -- especially when it's at Camp Randall. Every Big Ten game is a challenge. The last time I was there, it was a great experience for me."
Pryor was a callow freshman, making just his third collegiate start, at Wisconsin in 2008. He led the Buckeyes on two fourth-quarter scoring drives, capped by his own 11-yard touchdown sprint around left end with 1:08 remaining, to end Wisconsin's 16-game home winning streak, 20-17.
The game also means a lot to Wisconsin, which has only lost to No. 13 Michigan State two weeks ago. One more defeat and the Badgers will be pretty much out of the Big Ten title hunt.
"It's going to be a huge step up (in competition), just because year in and year out, those guys are the best of the best," Tolzien said. "They're super talented and really well coached and physical and all those things that great teams are. We're going to have our hands full, and we truly need to really lock in."
Pryor has never forgotten the crowd as it danced, leaped and swayed in unison to the "Jump Around" song heading into the fourth quarter.
"The place JUMPS," he said with a grin, shaking his head.
It's the kind of atmosphere -- "Jump Around" is performed by the aptly named House of Pain -- that No. 1 teams have to get used to on the road.
Top 25 Overview
The nation's new No. 1 team faces a stiff test right off the bat when Ohio State travels to Wisconsin. Not only is Camp Randall a definitive home-field advantage -- 40-4 since the 2004 season -- but the Badgers are 25-3 in night games. The Buckeyes, who have won all their games this season by double-digits, lead the all-time series 53-17-5.
Ohio State and QB Terrelle Pryor head to Wisconsin in Week 7 to take on a Badgers defense that has struggled against the pass.
|Avg Points Allowed||16.0||18.9|
NEXT LEVEL: Wisconsin is one of only two FBS teams this season that has not yet connected on a touchdown pass of 20 yards or more. The Badgers' longest touchdown pass this season went only 14 yards. Entering this week, UCF is the only other FBS program without a touchdown pass of at least 20 yards.
NEXT LEVEL: Scott Tolzien and Lance Kendricks have been quite the duo this season when trying to hook up on a long pass. In the Badgers' only loss, Michigan State did not allow Kendricks to catch a downfield ball, and the Wisconsin passing game suffered.[+]
Scott Tolzien on Throws of 15+ Yards
NEXT LEVEL: Terrelle Pryor has shown the ability this season to create gains when pass plays have broken down. In addition to picking up yards with his legs, Pryor has completed 72.7 percent of his passes when forced out of the pocket by pressure this season.[+]
Terrelle Pryor Rushing By Type
In 2008, the Badgers forced Terrelle Pryor to beat them with his arm and the freshman responded by completing 13 of 19 passes in an Ohio State win. Last year, Bret Bielema's defense made some adjustments and Pryor struggled as the Buckeyes needed 3 non-offensive touchdowns to get the win in Columbus. TERRELLE PRYOR CAREER vs WISCONSIN 2008 2009 Rush yards 20 35 Comp pct 68.4 38.5 Pass yds 144 87 TD resp for 1 1 >1 TURNOVER (INT IN 2009)
The Badgers have lost 4 of their last 5 home games against the Buckeyes, dating back to 1995. That's tied for the most home losses versus any school for Wisconsin in that span.[+]
Most Home Losses - Wisconsin, Since 1995
ESPN Stats & Information