When it comes to playing football games on Saturday nights at Camp Randall Stadium, the Wisconsin Badgers have a pretty nice track record.
For example, one could look back on the classic 1998 contest between Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers versus the Badgers on homecoming at Camp Randall, when Wisconsin outlasted Purdue 31-24. Brees attempted a whopping 83 passes in that game, completing 55 for 494 yards and two touchdowns.
But Brees also had four passes picked off, including one for a pick-six.
The Badgers went on to win the first of back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles under head coach Barry Alvarez that season.
Then there was the 2011 night game versus Nebraska, which was the first ever Big Ten game for the Huskers. Wisconsin whipped the Huskers 48-17 that night. Russell Wilson threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, plus ran for another score. In addition, Montee Ball rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns.
The Badgers went on to win their second straight Big Ten title under head coach Bret Bielema that year, as well as winning the first ever Big Ten Championship Game.
But the Saturday night games that stir up the most memories were the two times the Badgers met the Ohio State Buckeyes on a Saturday night in Madison.
When the Buckeyes came into Camp Randall in 2003, they were defending national champs and were riding a 19-game winning streak. Ohio State was ranked third in the country, while Wisconsin was ranked 22nd.
With 5:20 remaining in the game, and with the game knotted at 10 apiece, backup quarterback Matt Schabert threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans, as the Badgers shocked the Buckeyes by winning 17-10.
On Oct. 16, 2010, Ohio State came into Camp Randall on a Saturday night ranked No. 1 in the country. The game got off to a fantastic start for the Badgers, as David Gilreath ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
The Badgers never let up, winning the game 31-18. The offense was very sharp, led by then offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Quarterback Scott Tolzien was 13-of-16 for 152 yards, while John Clay rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense played a big part in the victory as well, as J.J. Watt posted four tackles, three for a loss and two sacks.
The win was the first time the Badgers had defeated the No. 1 team in the country since 1981.
The game also set the stage for a season that would bring the first of three straight Big Ten titles for the Badgers.
That history also sets up a very important game this Saturday night in Madtown, as the No. 2 Buckeyes will face off against the No. 8 Badgers.
This will be the biggest test thus far this season for the 4-1 Badgers, as the 5-0 Buckeyes are loaded with talent.
Ohio State is well-rounded on both sides of the ball, as the Buckeyes are ranked fifth in total offense in the country and fourth in total defense.
On offense, the Bucks are led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has thrown 15 touchdown passed versus just three interceptions for 981 yards. Barrett has also rushed for 342 yards and four touchdowns.
The Buckeyes have two additional threats running the football at running back. They are Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel. The two have combined for 976 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
Samuel is also a threat in the passing game, as he has 23 receptions for 345 yards and three scores. The top two wide receivers for the Buckeyes are Dontre Wilson and Noah Brown. The two have combined for 27 receptions for 354 yards and nine touchdowns.
On defense, the Buckeyes are led by linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who has 33 tackles this season, plus defensive back Malik Hooker, who is having a fabulous season. Hooker already has four interceptions this season to go along with 23 tackles.
When it comes to playing defense, the Badgers don’t have to take a back seat to anyone. Wisconsin is ranked 11th in total defense overall, which includes being ranked fourth in points allowed, as the Badgers only give up 12.2 points per game.
Ohio State is ranked second in that category, as they only give up 10.8 points per game.
The big difference between the two teams in terms of their defensive statistics are concerned, is the fact that Wisconsin has played three top-10 opponents already this season, while the Buckeyes will be facing their first top-10 test this Saturday night.
The Badgers are also ranked sixth in rushing defense in the country, as they only allow an average of 90.4 yards per game on the ground.
The Badger defense is led by their talented group of linebackers. Inside linebacker Jack Cichy leads the team with 35 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss, while outside linebacker T.J. Watt has 29 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards also has 28 tackles this season.
The Badgers lost talented outside linebacker Vince Biegel for a few weeks prior to the game against Michigan due to a broken foot. In his absence, Biegel was replaced by Garret Dooley, who had a very solid game against the Wolverines.
The Wisconsin secondary is led by safety Leo Musso, who has 23 tackles and one interception, plus returned a fumble for a 66-yard touchdown against Michigan State.
The offense for the Badgers has had it’s share of issues in terms of production, both running and passing the football.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who is a redshirt freshman, looked very good in his first ever start against Michigan State, but then struggled against Michigan. Hornibrook has thrown four touchdown passes for 455 yards.
The running game is definitely not where it needs to be at this point of the season. The Badgers are just eighth in the Big Ten in rushing at just 161.6 yards per game after two games.
Granted, that was against Michigan State and Michigan on the road.
Tailback Corey Clement leads the Badgers with 329 yards rushing, but is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and 79.8 yards per game.
The three pass-catching threats for the Badgers are wide receivers Jazz Peavy and Robert Wheelwright, along with tight end Troy Fumagalli. Combined, the three have 51 receptions for 736 yards and two scores.
Landry first talked about what a great atmosphere Camp Randall is during night games for the Badgers.
“It’s a very underrated place [speaking of Camp Randall],” Landry said. “It’s very difficult. People talk about the “Horseshoe” and “The Big House”, but that place is very tough, particularly at night. It’s a tough, tough environment to come out with a win, particularly if the talent level is fairly even.”
Landry then talked about the Wisconsin defense.
“I love their linebackers,” Landry said. “They are playing well defensively, but their linebackers are the key. That keeps them in the game. There is no question. We could see what that Michigan offense could do against most people, but they [Wisconsin] did stay in that game.
“This will be their toughest challenge yet. This Ohio State team is really good. I think they are a step above of where Michigan is. So if Wisconsin, even at home and in that night environment, can keep this close, this will say a whole lot.
“I put my mid-season grades up for college football today, and one of the best coaching jobs has been done by Paul Chryst. And one of the biggest surprises has been Wisconsin. I think they have gotten better and better.
“I think that LSU game was a little bit of fool’s gold. If they line up and play LSU again, I think they would beat LSU more decisively. I don’t think they played all that well when they played LSU, personally.
“But I don’t see them matching up if Ohio State plays their best game. This Ohio State team, the more and more I study it, this Ohio State-Alabama potential matchup would be one for the ages, because these teams are so good.
“But, as Bob said, this is one of those matchups which can be very difficult. Wisconsin, nothing is expected of them. They expect to play hard and play well, but no one expects them to win.
“If it’s close into the fourth quarter and Ohio State gets tight, we’ve seen it happen before. We saw it happen against Virginia Tech a couple of years ago for the Buckeyes. It could happen, but boy, this Ohio State team is at a different level of anyone in the Big Ten.”
I agree with Landry that it would be a monumental upset if the Badgers beat the Buckeyes. Not to mention that the Buckeyes are coached by Urban Meyer, who already has three national titles under his belt as a head coach.
All that being said, if history is a blueprint for the future, at least based on the success that the Badgers have had on Saturday nights at Camp Randall Stadium, especially against Ohio State, an upset is certainly a possibility.