Buckeyes, Badgers Build Notable Rivalry

Devin Smith wins 2011 matchup.

No one questions that Ohio State's top rival is longtime foe Michigan. While the Wolverines are and will always be OSU's No. 1 opponent, the Buckeyes have developed an impressive competition with the Badgers in recent years.

Ohio State senior fullback-turned-linebacker Zach Boren was asked Monday what came to mind when he heard the word Wisconsin.

"Rivalry," he responded.

Yes, nothing compares to the Ohio State-Michigan conflict – one that is all-encompassing for many Buckeye and Wolverine fans, coaches and players. That rivalry is among the best in all of sports, but one could argue that if Michigan is the No. 1 rival for OSU, Wisconsin is 1A.

Historically, the Buckeyes have dominated the Badgers. The two Big Ten foes have battled 77 times since 1913 and Ohio State has a 54-18-5 record in those contests. It has been a much closer competition in recent years, however, as OSU holds only a 9-6-1 advantage since 1980.

"We've had a big rivalry with them, almost as big since I've been here as the team up north, especially the past two years," Boren said.

The rivalry has been closer in the recent decades, and the past two meetings have shown just how high the stakes have been between the two schools. In 2010, Ohio State traveled to Madison as the top-ranked team in the nation and left Camp Randall Stadium with its national title hopes ruined thanks to a 31-18 loss to the Badgers.

First-year Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer mentioned how Wisconsin "stole a season" with that upset during his Monday press conference. His players haven't forgotten about it, either.

"A lot of guys, especially seniors, continually think about that (game) and don't want it to happen again – especially with the perfect season we're having," senior cornerback Travis Howard said.

Added Boren: "We felt my sophomore year that we should have been playing in the national championship (game) that year. We thought we were the best team, and we went up there and it was a different story."

The Buckeyes finished the 2010 season – one they would later vacate amidst NCAA scandal – with a 12-1 record, a Big Ten title (shared with the Badgers) and a win in the Sugar Bowl.

A year later, it was Wisconsin hitting the road as a conference favorite with BCS bowl hopes. The No. 11 Badgers invaded Ohio Stadium for a primetime showdown looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season a week earlier at Michigan State. However, Ohio State gave its best performance of the season and emerged with a dramatic 33-29 victory on a last-minute 40-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith.

"I'm sure they probably hate us, too," junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "But I really don't care what they think."

Since 1999, Ohio State and Wisconsin have played 12 times, with both teams winning six times apiece. Most of those games have featured plenty of drama, which has added to the rivalry. Twice, Wisconsin has rallied from 17-0 deficits to earn wins (in 1999 and 2001) in Columbus. UW also ended Ohio State's 19-game winning streak with a 17-10 win at Camp Randall in 2003.

The Buckeyes returned the streak-snapping favor in 2008, ending Wisconsin's 16-game home unbeaten streak with a 20-17 win. Ohio State also earned an unusual win against the Badgers a year later. OSU was outgained 368-184 in total yards and had the ball for only 17:13 (compared to 42:47 for Wisconsin) but earned a 31-13 victory thanks to 21 points from its defense and special teams.

The next chapter comes Saturday in Madison.

"It's a huge game for us and it's (in) hostile territory," senior defensive lineman John Simon said. "Their fans are crazy. They play very well at home, and we know they're going to come in with a chip on their shoulder after last year. We're doing everything we can this week to prepare and we'll be up to the challenge."

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