The last time the Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes on a football field, it ruined OSU’s chances at a national championship.
Four years later, the Badgers will have the same opportunity.
In 2010, a season that would later be vacated because of the now infamous “Tattoo-Gate” scandal, Wisconsin took down then-No. 1 OSU in Madison, Wis., in what would be the only Buckeye loss of the year.
Now, a similar Badger team will take on an OSU team looking to avenge a loss in last year’s Big Ten Championship Game that cost it a spot in the BCS national title game.
In 2010, the Badgers averaged 245.7 rushing yards per game, which was good for 12th in the country as Wisconsin was led by two 1,000-yard rushers (then-freshman running back James White, then-junior running back John Clay) and nearly added a third as then-sophomore Montee Ball rushed for 996 yards and a team-leading 18 touchdowns.
Fast forward four years, Wisconsin is still running away from the competition as the team currently sits third nationally in rushing offense.
Leading the way for the Badgers is redshirt-junior Melvin Gordon, who sits atop the FBS landscape with 2,260 rushing yards to go along with 26 touchdowns.
OSU senior cornerback Doran Grant said that in order to slow down the Badger running attack, the Buckeyes will need to play assignment football.
“Gotta communicate, for one. We have to communicate. They shift a lot, they motion a lot,” Grant said. “We have to communicate and be in the right spots so we can fill our gaps in the run game. And then at corner, you just have to do your job, play, me and (redshirt-freshman cornerback) Eli (Apple).”
OSU co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Monday that he doesn’t expect anything different from the Wisconsin offense, adding that the Badgers will be playing their usual style of football.
“Gordon, the offensive line, those are the things great Wisconsin teams have always had,” Fickell said. “This is as good a running back they have had, and they have had some great ones. Montee Ball, James White and heck, go all the way back to Ron Dayne. I don’t know that they’ve had one as electric as Gordon. Most importantly you can’t let him get going. We have seen, you get some of those guys going, it’s hard to get them down.”
Gordon, who came to Wisconsin a year after the Badgers’ last win over the Buckeyes, said a win against OSU is something that he has always wanted to experience.
“Since I have been at Wisconsin, I haven’t had a chance to beat Ohio State yet,” Gordon said Monday. “It’s a tough team to go up against and it would be good to have my first win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship.
“I follow Ohio State … they are one of the best teams in the nation. They love to play physical; they don’t shy away from contact. The linebackers, they speak for themselves. They always have great linebackers there.”
Fickell, who coaches the Buckeye linebackers, said that Gordon, combined with the Badger offensive line, can be a tough assignment for any defense.
“You still got to know that the most important thing, they are going to rely on him. They are going to run the football. He can be one of those guys that beats you,” Fickell said. “They are good enough up front to be able to give him the opportunity to do those things. It poses a lot of problems.”
While the Buckeyes might be the higher-ranked team, the Badgers are the ones who have won in the Big Ten title game.
Wisconsin is 2-0 in the conference championship game while OSU’s only appearance came in a 34-24 loss to the Michigan State Spartans last year.
That game is still on the minds of the players and coaches, Grant said.
“We just … thinking about last year, coming off that field. I know we were talking about that in the corners’ room, me and coach (Kerry) Coombs,” Grant said. “He said, ‘we’ll be back,’ and we’re back. So it’s time to make it complete and finish well.”
The Buckeyes will attempt to bring home its first Big Ten title since 2009 on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8:17 p.m.