COLUMBUS, Ohio — College football doesn’t have a preseason schedule like its professional counterpart, but Ohio State’s first four games were about as close to a regular season warm-up as it gets.
The Buckeyes breezed through the first month of the season barely challenged, but now, the real season begins.
No. 4 Ohio State opens up the Big Ten schedule Saturday when the Buckeyes host No. 23 Wisconsin for a prime time tilt (8 p.m. EDT, ABC).
“We’re pleased to make it through the non-conference schedule and, obviously, this is why we’re all here — to compete in the Big Ten Conference,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday in the weekly Big Ten teleconference.
The match-up has grown into one of the top Big Ten rivalries in recent history.
“When I was here a long time ago, it was not a rivalry,” Meyer said as he recalled his time as an assistant at Ohio State. “You have to give credit to Wisconsin. It’s one of — if not the best — program in the Big Ten right now and because of that it has become a very good rivalry.
“It is very much a game that I think our players and (Wisconsin’s) players know that it's going to come down (to the end),” Meyer said. “This will be a classic game.”
Between Ohio State (4-0, 0-0) and Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0), the two schools have been the Big Ten representative in the last four Rose Bowls. The Badgers have been in the “Granddaddy of Them All” the last three seasons.
“(Wisconsin) is a team that has been in the Rose Bowl the last few years, so it is a chance for us to take a major step as a team,” Meyer said.
The last time out, it took a Carlos Hyde 2-yard touchdown run and a Christian Bryant batted pass in overtime in Madison last season for Ohio State to put away Wisconsin 21-14 and clinch an outright Big Ten Leaders Division title.
“(Ohio State is) a tremendous football team. We have a ton of respect for them for what they’ve done and where they’re going,” first-year Wisconsin head coach Gary Anderson said during the teleconference. “The speed and athleticism is very, very good and they’re very well-coached. They’re a powerful football team and to this point this year have not been challenged.