The Buckeyes have a history of close games against Wisconsin, and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer expects this week's matchup to be no different. The Badgers will be Ohio State's first conference game of the season, and with a prolific rushing attack and a history of playing the Buckeyes tough, this also stands to be Ohio State's most challenging matchup to date. When you factor in the rivalry that exists between these two teams, we should be in for a great game on Saturday.
Many Buckeyes fans may not think of Wisconsin as a true rival team, partly because the rivalry that exists between Ohio State and the Badgers pales in comparison to the vitriol we reserve for That Team Up North. But, the recent history between these two teams, and their respective success over the past several years, make this more of a rivalry than you might think.
When you look at the series history between these two teams, it's clear that Ohio State has the edge, having won 55 of 78 meetings since 1913. However, the recent history paints a more accurate picture of the competitive nature of this rivalry. Since 1999, Ohio State has beaten Wisconsin seven times, and Wisconsin has walked away with a win over the Buckeyes five times.
Many of those games have been close, with six of twelve games since 1999 having been decided by one touchdown or less. There have been several upsets in that timeframe, also. The Badgers upset the top-ranked Buckeyes in 2010, and the unranked Buckeyes upset the ranked Badgers in 2011.
The Badgers also upset the Buckeyes in 2003. The Buckeyes were ranked third in the nation at that time, and the Badgers were ranked toward the bottom of the top 25. The Buckeyes also had a considerable winning streak going, having won 19 games in a row, and the Badgers snapped it with a big win over Ohio State in Camp Randall.
There's also the fact that, for this season, the Buckeyes and the Badgers coexist in the Leaders division of the Big Ten. Since the institution of the Big Ten Championship game in the 2011 season, Wisconsin has been the only winner. Ohio State was ineligible for the Big Ten Championship game last season, paving the way for a five-loss Wisconsin team to take on Nebraska in the title game and win. Wisconsin won the 2011 Big Ten Championship as well, during a season that saw Ohio State severely impacted by suspensions and an interim head coach. Only one of these teams can make it to the Big Ten championship this season, which fuels the rivalry.
Of course, the rivalry may not have the same tenor with former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema having taken over for another class act, Bobby Petrino, at the University of Arkansas. Bielema's still mad about the Buckeyes, but the Badgers' current head coach, Gary Andersen, is a good friend to Urban Meyer. Andersen was on Meyer's coaching staff at the University of Utah, and during the one season they shared the sideline, they led the Utes to an undefeated record. The two coaches are good friends, and have a great deal of respect for each other.
With Andersen at the helm for the Badgers, the rivalry may be less contentious, but it will not be any less intense. Saturday's game is an important one for both the Buckeyes and the Badgers. When asked about the game, Meyer said, "This will be a classic." Recent history suggests he may be right.