COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Inside the halls of Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center, no team will ever earn more vitriol than Michigan. But if any team can come close to matching the disdain that the Buckeyes have for the Wolverines, it's Wisconsin.
"I don't want to go on recording saying that I hate Wisconsin more than Michigan," OSU receiver Corey Brown said. "I hate Wisconsin just as Michigan."
Brown wasn't shy when it came to mentioning the reason behind his lack of love for the Badgers. As is the case with several other upperclassmen on this year's Ohio State squad, the junior wideout pointed to the 2010 meeting between the Buckeyes and Badgers as the main source of his hostility towards this weekend's opponent.
It was in that game that Wisconsin put the only blemish on what was ultimately a 12-1 season for Ohio State, just six days after the Buckeyes were named the No. 1 team in the nation. Although Ohio State's 12 wins were ultimately vacated due to a cash-for-memorabilia scandal, the Badgers' 31-18 victory over the Buckeyes knocked them down nine spots and the polls, keeping Jim Tressel's final Ohio State squad out of the national title picture.
"Any time you play Wisconsin, it's a big rival," OSU senior cornerback Travis Howard. "The thing that I continually think about is when we was ranked No. 1 a couple years back, going into their house, and they took that away. A lot of guys on team, particularly seniors, are particularly thinking about that moment."
If the current Wisconsin players feel the same way about the Buckeyes, it'd be understandable. After all, it was just a year ago that a then 4-3 Ohio State squad temporarily derailed the Badgers' path to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, with a thrilling 33-29 victory that was won on a 40-yard pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
While Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema that last year's loss to the Buckeyes is still a sore spot for his team, he insisted that the rivalry between the two teams is based on respect more than anything.
"The Ohio State game is what it is. It's always a big game on our schedule," Bielema said. "We're going to play this game Saturday and I want to win it in the worst way because Ohio State has set the standard for winning in this league for years."
Another factor that Bielema said goes into his team's rivalry with Ohio State is recruiting. The Wisconsin coach admitted that Ohio is one of the primary states that he targets when it comes to getting players to become Badgers, and getting the chance to beat some of those players' hometown team is crucial in that process.
Recruiting has also been the source of some newfound storylines in the OSU-Wisconsin rivalry, but for reasons other than Bielema trying to turn Ohioans into Badgers.
After OSU coach Urban Meyer secured a letter of intent from Cleveland offensive tackle Kyle Dodson on his first signing day in Columbus, Bielema accused the first-year Buckeyes' coach of using unethical recruiting tactics to flip Dodson's commitment from Wisconsin to Ohio State, a claim that Meyer vehemently denied. On Monday, Meyer said that there's no bad blood between himself and Bielema, after the two hashed out their issues at a Big Ten coaches meeting in February.
"That was kind of a lot of stuff that was blown up," Meyer said. "I have a lot of respect for his team."
In fact, Meyer agreed with Bielema in stating that the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Badgers stems from a place of shared success, rather than hate. Ohio State and Wisconsin have combined to win the last seven Big Ten championships, and the Badgers will have the opportunity to extend that streak to eight this season, as they have already secured a spot in this year's conference championship game.
"What makes a rivalry is when two good games play significant games," Meyer said. "Wisconsin and Ohio State, have been near the top of the Big Ten, so that's made this a very good, interesting rivalry."
Having visited Madison as a commentator for ESPN last season and having studied Wisconsin throughout the year, Meyer is confident that the Buckeyes' rivalry with the Badgers will only get bigger in the coming years.
"It's tremendous what they've done," Meyer said. "It's got all of the makings of a great college town and a great college program. There's no doubt that they will always be competitive for that division championship."