Daniel Chi /Asst. photo editor
Ohio State football won’t play its annual game against Michigan until Nov. 24 , but there’s a rivalry game this Saturday to tide the Buckeyes over.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema labeled this weekend’s matchup with the Buckeyes as a rivalry game Tuesday at the weekly Big Ten football coaches teleconference.
“It’s a big one,” Bielema said.
Last year, OSU upset then-No. 12 Wisconsin in a game that Bielema called “heartbreaking.” The year before, Wisconsin gave a then-No.1 OSU squad its only loss of the season. Dating back to 2005, either Wisconsin or OSU has won at least a share of the Big Ten conference title.
“What makes a good rivalry is when two good teams play significant games,” said first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer. “Over the past decade, certainly in recent history, these two teams have been near the top of the Big Ten. That’s made this a very interesting rivalry.”
The current landscape of the Big Ten conference has allowed the OSU-Wisconsin rivalry to blossom. The Buckeyes and Badgers are both members of the Leaders Division, guaranteeing a meeting between the programs every year.
Meyer said he has no doubt that Wisconsin will always compete for the division championship, making the OSU and Wisconsin game a pivotal one in determining the Leaders Division champion for years to come.
That will be the case this weekend; a win against Wisconsin, and OSU will be crowned as king of the Leaders Division.
Badgers not holding back
Because OSU and Penn State are ineligible from postseason play, Wisconsin secured a spot in the Big Ten Championship game last weekend with a win against Indiana .
But that doesn’t mean the Badgers will hold back this weekend against the Buckeyes.
“Our goal year in and year out is to win our division,” Bielema said. “Obviously, we have to beat Ohio State for that to happen this year.”
Nearly every year in the NFL, teams will rest their starters during the final weeks of the regular season once their playoff destinies are finalized. Bielema said, however, that the thought of benching his key players until the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 1 hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“We would probably have a mutiny if I tried to take anyone out of the game,” Bielema said. “This is a chance to play the team that’s No. 1 in our division. I want to win in the worst way because Ohio State has set the standard for winning in this league.”
Although the goal is to beat the Buckeyes, the Wisconsin coach said his team doesn’t need to win the division outright to legitimize their inevitable spot in the conference championship game.
“We’re going to play the schedule that’s laid out,” Bielema said. “All we do is play the schedule that’s in front of us and live with the results.”