Winning on the road in the Big Ten: it's tough.
I'm not sure there's a sport or league in which home field advantage means more than in college football. This is especially true in the Big Ten, which boasts three of the four largest stadiums in America and has several historically bitter rivalries. Just last week we saw upsets from both Ohio State and Minnesota as they defended their home fields. In 2010, no Big Ten team escaped the season without a road loss and in 2011, only Penn State, which has yet to travel to Ohio State and Wisconsin, is perfect on the road.
Maybe we shouldn't be so surprised about Wisconsin's inability to close out big road games this season, then. The Badgers lost at Michigan State last year and very nearly fell in Iowa City, too. Especially in the Big Ten, strange things happen to the road team in big games, so perhaps it's smarter to expect a road loss or two each season.
Which brings me to something that's been bothering me the last few weeks: Wisconsin's poll rankings. When the Badgers fell to Michigan State, they were playing on a hostile environment against a quality top-15 team. It took two freakish blocked kicks and a Hail Mary to beat the Badgers that week, but they still fell a full eight spots, from No. 4 to No. 12. Adam's written about this before, but I don't think there's any way MSU is able to pull off that win in a neutral environment, yet the Badgers still dropped like a stone following the loss. The seven spots they plummeted after losing at Ohio State, an unranked opponent, were far more reasonable. The nonsensical college football rankings system strike again, and fans can only shake their heads.
Still, it does illustrate a point Adam Rittenberg made in a column Wednesday: Wisconsin needs to show it can consistently win at least one or two big road games each year in order to move into the ranks of college football's elite programs. It's going to be very tough to do that in the Big Ten, but at least it's good bulletin board material for Bret Bielema and his staff to use.
Until then? The Badgers just have to let it roll, baby, roll.
The Wisconsin offensive line came under scrutiny this week for producing the lowest rushing total against the Badgers have posted in a game since 2009 against Ohio State.
Bret Bielema says he likes his team's energy heading into Saturday's game.
Oh, and the Buckeyes weren't actually running a real play on that most recent touchdown pass.
You have to be excited about Mike Taylor, who recorded 22 tackles against the Buckeyes and is really developing into a leader for the Badgers.
This week's predictions from around the web are all in favor of the Badgers.
Off Tackle Empire previewed the Leaders division race. They like the Badgers' chances to make it to Indianapolis.
Wrapping up, here's the AP preview for Saturday's game.