When I really took a look at the home schedule for this season, this was the game.
Many of the preseason magazine guys had picked Wisconsin to finish atop the Big Ten. If we were able to squeak past Penn State, this was to have been the next big test.
And then the season began, and nearly every one of those “experts” looked sillier and sillier with each passing week. The Badgers did their part, struggling against nobody non-conference teams and then collapsing, in a tough game at Illinois and in a laugher at Penn State.
This season, that kind of weirdness isn’t unusual. It’s caught just about everyone.
Except us. And that’s what’s bothering me.
I watched parts of Wisconsin’s games against Illinois and Penn State. I can see the potential, especially of their offense. The Badgers’ defense, however, was supposed to be the fearsome unit, especially based on their performance late last season, and they’ve looked awfully average, at least when I’ve been watching them struggle against the Illini and the Happy Valley Kitties.
And still. I’ve felt this before. We didn’t have a great team in 2004, but we were good enough that we should have had little trouble with Wisconsin when they came to Columbus. But the Badgers held us to 10 points — a kick return and a field goal; no TDs by the offense — in the first half and shut us down the rest of the way.
And that’s how it was in 2001 in Columbus … and in 1999 in Columbus. It’s a little misleading to point this out, because the teams don’t play every year, thanks to the Big Ten’s rotating schedule … BUT THE LAST TIME OHIO STATE BEAT WISCONSIN IN COLUMBUS WAS IN NINETEENNINETYFREAKINGSIX.
And that’s why I’m concerned about tomorrow’s game. History doesn’t have to repeat itself — but stranger things have already happened this fall.