#13 Wisconsin (1-0) vs. Oregon St. (0-0) / Reser Stadium, 1 PM / FX / KEJO 1240 / KEX 1190
It's finally opening day for Oregon St., who had their season opener last Saturday against Nicholls St. postponed indefinitely in the storm wake of Hurricane Isaac.
It's game 2 for Wisconsin though. The Badgers beat FCS Northern Iowa from the Missouri Valley Conference 26-21 at Camp Randall last Saturday, behind a bruising performance by Montee Ball, who battered the Panthers for 120 yards on 32 carries, including 5 straight for a pair of first downs to run out the clock with the game on the line at the end.
The game was also the debut as the Wisconsin quarterback for Danny O'Brien, who transferred from Maryland, continuing coach Brett Bielema's pattern of acquiring a graduated ACC signal caller after that plan worked out so well last year with Russell Wilson.
And while O'Brien is a completely different style of quarterback, both in terms of play and team leadership style, things look good going forward for the Badgers, as O'Brien completed 19 of 23 passes, for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns. As importantly, he didn't commit any turnovers. Neither did anyone else in the game, which was remarkably clean for an opener, with only 2 penalties per team.
The Beavers could only practice and watch the Wisconsin game. And look forward to doing something about last year's embarrassing 35-0 loss in Madison, since the vast majority of the current players and coaches were there that day. Oregon St. fans will recall that day as the game of transition at quarterback from Ryan Katz, who saw his last action as a Beaver that day, to Sean Mannion, who played most of that game, and took every snap of the season thereafter.
In addition to being the much anticipated 2012 season opener, today's game is arguably the biggest non-conference contest ever conducted in Corvallis. Ranked #13, Wisconsin is the highest rated non-conference opponent to visit since BYU on Oct. 8, 1977. The Cougars were also ranked #13 that day, but dropped after the Beavers upset them 24-19. Though Cincinnati was on their way to a 12-1 season and their second consecutive berth in a BCS Bowl when they were here in 2009, the Bearcats were only ranked #17 at the time, in what was the 3rd week of the season.
It's also only the fourth time a Big Ten team has ever ventured to Corvallis for a football game, and the first since Iowa on Sept. 18, 1971. The Beavers beat the Hawkeyes 33-19 that day.
The other visits by Big-10 teams include a 24-14 win in 1971 over Indiana, as well as a 14-6 loss to Northwestern in 1966, and a 46-21 defeat against Michigan State in 1948.
The Badgers lead the all time series with the Beavers 2-0, having beaten Oregon St. 23-20 in Madison in 1961 as well as taking last year's contest.
More relevant than the all time series is the recent past, and a stat that jumps out is the 33 game winning streak Wisconsin has going against non-conference opponents in the regular season, one that dates back to 2003. That isn't all a product of schedule crafting; its an indication that Bielema and Barry Alvarez before him place an emphasis on game to game preparation, and never overlooking an opponent.
A lineup change is anticipated in the Oregon St. secondary, as senior safety Anthony Watkins has struggled for weeks with a hip flexor injury, so expect to see Tyrequek Zimmerman at strong safety. Peter Ashton will probably be the nickel back when the Beavers use one.
Oregon St.'s having their season opener postponed does create some question marks for Wisconsin, as no one who hasn't attended a practice has yet seen what the Beaver secondary will look like under new defensive backs coach Rod Perry.
The Badgers, and the rest of us, also don't know what the play calling sequence is likely to be, now that Oregon St. head coach Mike Riley has resumed play calling responsibilities.
"If I'm going to have to answer for them, I might as well call them," Riley explained.
Wisconsin is favored by 7 points, which, even on the road, seems slim, but is doubtless a reflection of 17 returning starters for home-standing Oregon St. vs. only 11 for the Badgers. The Beavers losses last season were all by more than 7 points except for the 1 point overtime loss to Sacramento St. in last year's opener.
Familiar Faces At The Game
Recent former Beavers James Rodgers and Kyle Devan were at the walk-through yesterday, and will be on hand for the game today.
There's More Than The Badgers To Think About
Today's game has been designated an "Orange" game, and all Oregon St. fans are encouraged to wear orange to match the team. (The Utah and California games are designated "Black" games, with orange the color of the day for all other games this season.)
The 1962 Oregon St. team that recorded a 9-2 season, and won the Liberty Bowl 6-0 over Villanova, was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame Friday night, and will also be acknowledged during the game.
There's much more than just how this year's team will look to find about in the opener, as Oregon St. has announced a number of changes to the game day experience as well, and this will be the first chance to see how all that plays out. Changes range from opening the Truax Indoor Practice Facility to the public, and moving fan fest activities from Parker Plaza to the practice fields, to moved meant to make Reser Stadium at once more entertaining to Beaver Nation, and also more formidable for opponents.
Buildingthedam.com will be at the game, from Beaver Walk (which now starts at the 30th. street entrance to the Reser Stadium parking lot, next to Truax) all the way through the post-game show, and will be back after the game, with a full report and analysis.
Its time for the Badgers and the Beavers! Let the fur fly!