Saturday’s Ohio State-Wisconsin game was expected to be a showdown of unbeaten teams.
The Buckeyes have done their part, routing opponents by an average of more than 40 points.
But Wisconsin, after dominating all season, inexplicably lost to Illinois on Saturday.
“Probably everyone wanted them to come in undefeated so we could play them,” defensive tackle Tommy Togiai said.
That has taken some of the luster off the matchup to the casual fan. ESPN’s GameDay is going to South Dakota on Saturday instead of Columbus, but it’s not something the Buckeyes are dwelling on.
"We can't worry about this game means or doesn't mean (to the outside world)," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.
Ohio State, which moved up to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, is a two-touchdown favorite over the Badgers, who fell to No. 13. That’s the smallest point spread of the year for the Buckeyes.
“We know how good they are on both sides of the ball — all three phases,” Day said. “This is going to be our biggest challenge.”
Wisconsin has shut out four opponents. It has perhaps the country’s best running back in Jonathan Taylor and quarterback Jack Coan is probably a step above of typical just-don’t-lose-the-game Wisconsin quarterback.
So far, the Buckeyes have avoided a letdown despite playing obviously inferior competition. Coaches have drummed the importance of that all season.
"You're only as good as your last game,” Day said. “We've played with energy and that goes back to how you practice.”
But Illinois upset or not, Ohio State understands that Wisconsin will present a truly legitimate threat.
“Our guys, you could feel it (when) we all got together Sunday,” Ohio State defensive co-coordinator Greg Mattison said. “They all know this is this is as big as it gets right now. And there's great excitement.
“We have goals. Our players have worked extremely hard from the start of winter conditioning to everything that they have done up to this point. This is the next one and we don't want anybody to take away from what they're trying to achieve. And so this is the next team. And they're a very good team.”