We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Monday, Oct. 10, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
It’s a big one Saturday night
Wisconsin will play its biggest home game in five years when Ohio State comes to town on Saturday.
Not since October 2011, when the No. 7 Badgers welcomed No. 8 Nebraska, has a game had the magnitude on a national level like the one that will be played at Camp Randall Stadium under the lights this week.
It’s the unbeaten and No. 2 Buckeyes versus a likely top-10 and one-loss Wisconsin team with College GameDay in attendance for the first time since that day quarterback Russell Wilson and the Badgers rolled the Huskers 48-17.
Hey Madison! We're headed your way next week for Ohio State-Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/tWEdmGoD49
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 9, 2016
Some could argue that the 2014 finale against Minnesota, which amounted to a Big Ten West title game, was bigger. It wasn’t. The opportunity that Wisconsin has this week is one unlike they’ve been presented with in recent memory.
A win here allows the Badgers to legitimately start thinking about getting through the gauntlet-like schedule the team has faced so far with the hopes of a division title, a spot in the Big Ten championship game and the College Football Playoff all still intact.
Games like these are as big as it gets in the regular season for a team like Wisconsin.
Revisiting David Gilreath’s kick return
Some have called it the loudest moment in Camp Randall Stadium history.
With an environment charged from months of hype, wide receiver David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against then-No. 1 Ohio State in 2010 to give Wisconsin an early lead, one they would turn into a 31-18 victory for their first win over the top-rated team in the country since 1981.
Ohio State in town.
Night game at Camp Randall.@CollegeGameDay on campus.
Remember the last time that happened? https://t.co/kxCyOZSbwW
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 9, 2016
It’s among the more iconic plays in Wisconsin history. It plays in the Badgers entrance montage and gets cheers to this day wherever it’s shown.
The game served as a jumping-off point for a season that would end up with Wisconsin winning the Big Ten title and playing in the first of what would become three straight Rose Bowls. It can be argued that it was former coach Bret Bielema’s biggest win of his career, perhaps topped only by the Badgers’ 2011 Big Ten championship game victory over Michigan State.
It’s nights like the one in 2010, highlighted by Gilreath’s electric start, that gets people so excited about the possibilities for what this Saturday could hold.
Much has changed
The game on Saturday will be the first time Wisconsin and Ohio State have played since the 2014 Big Ten title game, an event that saw the Buckeyes wipe the field with the Badgers, handing them their worst loss in over 100 years.
That 59-0 shellacking was an embarrassment for a program that thought it was past such things.
But the runaway train that hit Wisconsin — and turned into the 2014 national champions — proved to be an important turning point for the Badgers. It was the final game Gary Andersen coached at Wisconsin, bolting for Oregon State just a few days afterward. It was a blessing in disguise for the Badgers.
There is no doubt that Andersen can coach. He was successful before he came to Wisconsin and will be, eventually, at Oregon State. But he wasn’t right for the job and that rang true several times during his two years in Madison.
So if that loss helped him in anyway see that, it was worth the result. Because Paul Chryst is the right person for the job.
And while he might not be flashy or win every press conference, the guy understands what Wisconsin football is and how to run the program so it can operate at a high level in the long term.
First win for Granato
It came a day later than Wisconsin wanted, but coach Tony Granato got his first win as the head of the Badgers hockey program on Saturday with a crazy 6-5 victory over Northern Michigan.
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 9, 2016
In a back-and-forth affair, the Badgers managed to claw back, scoring the final two goals in the third period to get the victory, according to UWBadgers.com.
“This was a position these guys were in a lot last year and it didn’t go well for them,” Granato said. “We talked about being confident, wanting to be on the ice, wanting to help us win and we went out there and made some big plays.”
Wisconsin was forced to split the two-game series, but coming out of it with just one win is still a big positive. With all the hype that this program saw in the offseason — the firing of long-time coach Mike Eaves, the hiring of Granato and the recruiting blitz him and his assistants have gone on — the team and fans needed something to point at as proof that what has been implemented is working.
It was a fun Saturday night in Green Bay. See what happened in the locker room when the captains presented the game pucks. pic.twitter.com/g0pNrdkP5A
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 10, 2016
It also sets up another big series this weekend against perennial powerhouse Boston College at the Kohl Center. In an arena that has rarely been full in recent years, the excitement around Granato and the want — and need — for Wisconsin hockey to be relevant, should make for an enticing Friday/Sunday series with a huge football game in between.