There was a time when Ohio State could use the week of the Wisconsin game to prepare for other, bigger showdowns.
From 1948 to 1980, the Buckeyes were 32-1 against the Badgers. Most games were over before fans found their seats.
‘‘I was here a long time ago, and it was not a rivalry,’’ said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes in the 1980s. ‘‘But you have to give credit to Wisconsin . . . it’s one of, if not the best program in the Big Ten right now.’’
From 1981-87, the Badgers won six times in seven meetings — after winning just seven times in the previous 68 years.
Each side has been trading welts and bruises in equal measure in what has become one of the most anticipated games on their schedules.
Once again, a lot is riding on Saturday night’s meeting between the fourth-ranked Buckeyes and No. 23 Badgers in Columbus. Chief among them is superiority in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division.
Wisconsin is third in the nation in rushing at 350 yards a game, Ohio State is sixth at 311. If either side dominates like it has, it’s going to be a long night for the other defense.
‘‘Against teams like this you aren’t going to always run pretty,’’ Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Groy said. ‘‘When our backs are running physical and running hard, they are going to break some tackles. That’s when most of it counts, after first contact. Teams like this that have great defenses and tackle well, you break a couple tackles and something good is going to happen.’’
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Alabama is still unbeaten and ranked No. 1 but not feeling especially good about its performance so far. Even soft-spoken linebacker C.J. Mosley was upset enough to speak up after an unimpressive showing against huge underdog Colorado State, knowing that beating No. 21 Mississippi Saturday night at home will likely require much better.
‘‘We haven’t put a whole game together as far as offense, special teams, and defense,’’ linebacker Trey DePriest said. ‘‘We haven’t put the whole thing together.”
Ole Miss is trying to move to 4-0 for the first time since 1970, but hasn’t faced a ranked team yet. A win would help move the Rebels out of the shadows of SEC West heavyweights ’Bama, LSU, and Texas A&M.
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Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said revenge won’t be a factor when his 14th-ranked Sooners face No. 22 Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend.
Apparently, though, not all of Stoops’s players got the memo. At least a few Sooners say payback for a 30-13 loss last season, when the Irish scored 17 points in the final six minutes to turn a close game into a blowout and help Notre Dame get to the BCS title game, will be on their minds when the teams meet.
‘‘It’s kind of just more so showing them that we can play just as good as them,’’ linebacker Corey Nelson said.
Notre Dame has dominated the Sooners, winning nine of the 10 games between two of college football’s most successful programs. The only time Oklahoma won was during its 1956 national championship season.