Possessing a national reputation as one of the loudest and toughest stadiums in all of college football, Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium epitomizes the term “home-field advantage.”
Winners of 40 of their last 44 contests in Madison, Wis., dating back to the start of the 2004 season, the Badgers hold the best home record in the Big Ten over that span, above even Ohio State. And with Wisconsin boasting a 25-3 record in their last 28 night games, the Buckeyes know defeating the Badgers on their home turf is not going to be an easy chore Saturday night.
“We all know it’s going to be a hostile environment and a great team at night, so it is going to be a challenge,” said OSU senior linebacker Ross Homan. “Any game in the Big Ten on the road it is going to be tough, but this place is one of the toughest places to play.”
Although the Badgers hold a superb home record, OSU maintains an impressive mark in its own right. At 8-3 in Big Ten night road games during Tressel’s Buckeye tenure, OSU is no stranger to road success.
Even with the solid record of late, Tressel knows the Badger faithfuls will make their presence felt.
“It’s a very difficult task when you’re up there,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said. “We just can’t get a hold of as many tickets as we would like. I know our fans would go, but the Badger fans are going to gobble up the tickets and they’ll be excited.”
In their most recent travels to Wisconsin, the Buckeyes learned exactly what a tough test playing under the lights at Camp Randall can present. Riding a 19-game winning streak, including a national title victory, the No. 3-ranked Buckeyes traveled to Wisconsin for a night contest in 2003, where their streak was snapped by an underdog No. 23-ranked Wisconsin team.
Narrowly winning in their last visit to Camp Randall by a score of 20-17 in 2008, senior defensive lineman Dexter Larimore said the older guys who have been there before know they are stepping into an intimidating setting.
“It’s unbelievable,” Larimore said. “I remember two years ago when we went up there, it was night, in the same situation and it’s tough.”
Despite the daunting atmosphere, senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said it makes the game fun. From the famous Camp Randall tradition of playing House of Pain’s song “Jump Around,” where the 80,000-plus fans jump around at their seats after the third quarter, to the continuous vulgar chants echoing from the Badgers’ student section, Chekwa said the environment pumps him up.
“I don’t think I danced that much (last time),” Chekwa said. “I think Malcolm (Jenkins) was jumping around a little bit. It’s a fun place to play. That whole atmosphere, it gets you excited and gets you ready to play.”
But just because others “Jump Around” on the Buckeye sideline, don’t expect OSU co-captain Cameron Heyward to be one of them, although he did add that a strong defensive performance could change that.
“Some guys jump around, but I don’t,” he said. “The last time we were there, I was a little too hectic for that. We didn’t play the best game on defense. Hopefully if we do, I might be, but I’m not guaranteeing anything.”
And with this being “as difficult a challenge as we could ever imagine,” Tressel said, Heyward believes his team will embrace the environment.
“I think we just thrive on everybody just cheering hard,” he said. “We know we’re going to deal with a lot of adversity this year, but the best way to deal with it is just embrace it.”