"I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally."
Call me crazy, but I don't think Buckeye fans think the same way as Mr. Fields. For many of the teams in the Big Ten, I think Ohio State fans are fairly neutral; we just want a win. For instance, some of us here at LGHL have adopted Indiana as the darling of our Big Ten Championship Game dreams, though that probably isn't happening anymore. Purdue and Illinois, thorns in the Buckeyes sides over the last few years, are no more than games on a schedule that you just have to get through, be it in nail biter or blowout fashion, respectively. We can even tolerate Sparty because of our respect for Mark Dantonio and his connections to Ohio State.
In a week, Ohio State will do battle with the Michigan Wolverines, our most hated rival, and the team that plays in The Game that defines the season. Things are getting dicey in Ann Arbor, and when the Maize and Blue come down to the Shoe next week, it will hopefully complete a most successful first year for Urban Meyer's Buckeyes. But that's next week, and we wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves, because there's a game to be played before The Game is played.
Over the last few years, it is safe to say that there is no love loss between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers. This is due to a multitude of things, but on-field play has certainly been a factor. Wisconsin is responsible for ending the Buckeyes' 19-game winning streak in 2003, as Ohio State literally and figuratively choked in Madison with the nation's longest winning streak going down the tube with them. In 2004, the Badgers tacked on a win in the Shoe. A few years later in 2010, #1 Ohio State went into Madison with a target on its back and, after giving the Badgers a 21-3 halftime advantage, would eventually lose their only game of the vacated 2010 season.
Ohio State has been on the positive end of this rivalry in the recent past as well. 2008 saw Terrelle Pryor's biggest coming out party, as the then-freshman wunderkind gashed the Badger defense for the deciding score, and the Silver Bullets held on to give the Badgers a loss they clearly didn't expect. And some of you may recall last year's back-and-forth shootout that all but culminated in this:
"O hai, XBRAX 360. Nice to meet you," said everyone in attendance that night. Also, I realize I just could have linked to this video, but it's so much more fun to watch over, and over, and over, and over...
So the rivalry has built on the field with the teams trading wins and losses, close and blowout, over the last decade or so. Where it has also grown is off the field, in the press and in the hearts and minds of both teams' rabid followings.
The tempers flared and tension escalated further because Meyer had the audacity (!!!) to go against some of the societal norms of Big Ten recruiting. "I can tell you this," the red windbreaker of Wisconsin said. "We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form." This is dumb. The SEC has won six consecutive national championships. But it made national news and is the first of many results if you Google "Bret Bielema Urban Meyer".
Since those comments were made, a great many Ohio State and Wisconsin fans have put a giant circle around November 17th 2012 - the day that the Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes get to square off with the Badgers on something other than a blog or a newspaper article. While Bielema has taken steps to dampen the flames with regard to his relationship with Meyer, there is no denying what is bubbling under the surface of the "no, it's cool, we're friends now!" dialogue that Bielema has (arguably) had to put forth since the season began.
And it all comes to a head on Saturday.
Throughout the slog of the summer through the first 11 weeks of the season, the general consensus for most Ohio State fans is that any season result that doesn't include a win over Michigan would be a failure. I personally had the Buckeyes at either 10-2 or 12-0 going into the season (because I'm an abject homer, you see). In no single iteration of that did I think Ohio State was going to lose to either Wisconsin or Michigan (again, because I'm a homer). Thankfully, those lofty pre-season thoughts have been more or less confirmed as the Buckeyes opened the season 10-0. But it all hinges on this week and next.
As we've moved forward with the year, and as Michigan has revealed themselves to be both staggeringly overrated and reliant on Denard Robinson to win big games (not you, Northwestern), I find myself in the unique position of wanting to win this week's game more than next week's Game. For as much as I hate Michigan, their pizza-shilling athletic director, and their Governor of New Jersey/head football coach, the level of satisfaction from going into Madison and getting a win over the Badgers seems like a much more appetizing proposition this year.
We don't hate equally as fans of Ohio State. There is simply no way to do that. Wisconsin, however, has earned a special amount of hate over the last few years. Whether due to on the field wins and losses, or moron coaches saying and doing moron things, this game has become special. And winning it, with the chance to play Michigan for a perfect season on the line, makes it even more so.