September 24, 2008

Big House of horrors

MADISON, Wis. - To say the Badgers have struggled at Michigan in the past would be an understatement. Over the course of the school's 61-game series, UW has been dominated in Michigan Stadium to the tune of only six wins in 32 opportunities. In fact, it has been nearly a decade and a half since the Badgers claimed victory in 1994.

There is no set reason for the Badger struggles in the "Big House." For whatever reason, UW just does not play well and are usually outplayed by more athletic and talented Wolverine squads. This season, the tables may be reversed as Saturday's meeting will be the first where the cardinal and white are ranked and Michigan is not in 49 years.

"History doesn't really mean too much," senior linebacker and captain DeAndre Levy said. "It's a different team, different players, different coaches, just different offenses, defenses. It's just all about who shows up on Saturday."

Michigan has stumbled out of the gates to a 1-2 record for the second consecutive season. It started with a home loss to now No. 14 Utah, and followed two weeks later with an embarrassing six-turnover blowout loss at Notre Dame. Still, the fact remains that Michigan is Michigan and they will always have talent.

"Like my coach said," UW running back P.J. Hill said. "They're a wounded beast. That's a very good team, they have a lot of players that have played a lot of football there. So you never know."

In recent match-ups, road teams have not been able to win at the opposing stadium, whether it is Camp Randall or Michigan Stadium. No road team has been successful on the road in this series since 2001, when Michigan won at UW. Even Wisconsin's 12-win season of 2006, the first conference game under Bret Bielema, suffered its only blemish on the road against the Wolverines.

"When we go in there, we're not going to think about what happened that year that we was there," Hill said. "We're just going to go out there and play the best football that we can play and we're going to go out there and be prepared."

With Big Ten powers Ohio State and Penn State waiting for consecutive night visits to Camp Randall following the Michigan tilt, Saturday's game may be conceived as a trap game for the Badgers. Even with their early struggles, the Wolverines lead the conference in rush defense and should give Wisconsin their stiffest test of the season.

"Michigan is capable of doing a lot of things to you and contributing well on their end as well," senior defensive tackle Jason Chapman said. "So we have to not underestimate anyone when we go in there."

Maybe this transitioning Michigan team will not be as good as past Wolverine teams, but with the start of Big Ten play, every team still retains Rose Bowl aspirations. For Wisconsin, outside of Fresno State, Michigan will arguably be the best team UW has played to this point, even with their 1-2 record.
"There's been a lot of championships won there," Bielema said. A lot of great players have run across that field. But the only guys that are playing on Saturday are the guys that they're going to suit up and the guys we're going to suit up.

"I'm excited to see what happens."

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