The best advantage the University of Wisconsin football team has going for it against top-ranked Ohio State on Saturday might be playing a night game at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Badgers have won 25 of their past 28 night games overall. They are 40-4 at home over the past seven seasons, just ahead of the Buckeyes (40-5) for best record in the Big Ten Conference and tied for third-best nationally.
Yet, that advantage is at least somewhat negated against Ohio State, which is 16-10 in night games in 10 years under coach Jim Tressel and 8-3 in road Big Ten night games. That includes a 1-1 record in Madison, with the Badgers winning 17-10 in 2003 and the Buckeyes prevailing 20-17 in 2008.
Ohio State has won four of its past five games in Madison and the players certainly know the atmosphere that awaits them on Saturday night.
"It's a lot of fun," Tressel said Tuesday during the Big Ten Conference coaches' teleconference. "Their fans have a blast, their band is outstanding. If any of our fans can sneak in there, they're excited.
They love football, it's part of their culture, it's part of their institution there in Madison. We talk all the time in recruiting to young people, not only getting a chance if you come to Ohio State to play in the Horseshoe, but you're getting to go to all of these other great places. Camp Randall's certainly one of them."
UW players know it's the night games they will likely remember the most long after their playing days are over.
"I remember being a recruit, coming to a couple night games and I've been part of a few here as well," senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "It's definitely a fun atmosphere, something that's really neat. I know five years from now, I'll look back on it and remember all the night games, just the emotion and craziness of the crowd."
Sophomore center Peter Konz said the different feeling from a night game starts as soon as players run out of the tunnel.
"The energy just flows right through you," he said. "If there's one way to describe it, I'd say you're connected to the crowd. On regular game days, sometimes just not as much.
"During a night game, it's just something about it, something just a little extra. I don't know if people are more hyped or just bored because they had to wait all day to get to the game. It's just a little bit better."
That should give the Badgers some confidence going into the game, although it doesn't mean as much as a good week of preparation.
"I think it's a nice cherry on top," senior left guard John Moffitt said. "The way I get the most confidence is having a great week and feeling, when you go through all that stuff in your head before the game, like, ‘Am I ready?' Saying, ‘Yeah, I've done everything,' then moving forward.
"But I'd never want to downplay the effect our stadium has (on opposing teams). I think it's very clear."
Talking about No. 1
UW coach Bret Bielema isn't making a big deal out of facing the No. 1 team in the country in all the major polls, but he did mention it to the players on Sunday.
"I don't want to put my head in the sand and act like it's not there," Bielema said. "There's a number of guys in their college football careers ... (who) never had the chance to play the No. 1 team in the country, let alone (at home)."
Tressel doesn't think the top ranking is an extra burden for his players, who are gunning for a sixth consecutive Big Ten title.
"We kind of believe here that there's a permanent bull's-eye," Tressel said. "I don't know if there's more added or less if we don't win a game, or get moved down in the rankings. I would think that bull's-eye is permanent."
Pryor on the run
Tressel expects quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whose running was hampered last week by a quadriceps injury suffered the previous week against Illinois, to be ready to run again. Pryor has been the team's best running threat for most of the season. His 354 net yards rushing are second on the team, trailing Dan Herron by one yard, despite sacks being figured into Pryor's totals.
The only three official carries by Pryor last week in a 38-10 win over Indiana were sacks for minus-19 yards.
"We feel that going into every game we need the two-way threat, because sometimes the best decision the quarterback makes is tuck it and take off," Tressel told the Ohio media on Tuesday. "It just so happens that when he tucks it and takes off it could be 60 (yards). That's huge to us, having that ability."
Pryor chose to stay in the pocket and not run against Indiana. When asked if Pryor would be back to being a dual threat, Tressel said, "Yeah, he's ready."