Finally, it paid off. Wisconsin’s insistence on scheduling a high profile opening game reaped some benefits. After falling short to LSU in 2014 and Alabama in 2015, the Badgers chalked up a victory in the highly anticipated rematch against LSU at historic Lambeau Field. Underdog status be damned. The Badgers are for real.
A cup of coffee and an el train ride separate Chicago’s northside from Evanston, Illinois where the venerable Ryan Field awaits its fans in purple. Fitting that the el train that takes passengers up to Northwestern University is the purple line. Filled with Wildcat fans and a few despondent Purdue fans, the el carried patrons ready for an early kickoff on a unseasonably warm November day.
For Wisconsin fans on Halloween, no amount of candy could possibly match the treat of runningback Corey Clement’s return to the field. He brings an entirely different element to the Badger offense – one that would serve more as a trick than a treat for Rutgers.
More than 74,000 visited Camp Randall Stadium today, but it was patchy amongst the bleachers. Halloween is an over-the-top event in Madison, and those festivities coupled with an annoyingly chilly rainfall colored the crowd with a more dispirited hue.
Mix together typical American homes with welcoming folks, well-appointed lawns, tree lined streets, a dash of cornfield and a sprinkle of charm and you have West Lafayette, Indiana. Ross-Ade Stadium lies in this town as a landmark at Purdue. It falls in line beautifully with the red-bricked architecture that is contagious throughout campus. Visitors get a sense of West Lafayette’s midwestern appeal as soon as they begin their search for parking because many of the locals happily open their lawns to cars from out-of-town areas.
Supporting Purdue football has been a frustrating endeavor. Fan interest is waning, optimism is fleeting, and the stadium is becoming bereft of spirit – there just isn’t enough coal in the boiler.
In the fourth quarter, a Badger fan in front of me exclaimed, “I would rather see Iowa’s offense with the ball at their own ten than Wisconsin’s offense with the ball anywhere.” It sure seemed logical – the Badger defense appeared to possess a higher probability of scoring. It was that kind of game.
Hawaii’s visit to Madison inspired plastic luau-themed paraphernalia all over campus – palm trees, flowery leis, grass skirts – it’s as close as Wisconsin gets to that level of paradise. During the pregame band festivities, even legendary Badger band leader, Mike Leckrone got into the spirit by making his signature entrance on a surf board.
Stanford – the in vogue pick. I admit that I became swept into the hype by putting them in high regard for a playoff position. Instead, a muggy day at Ryan Field became a potential Northwestern revival.
Indianapolis has been a familiar spot for the Badgers and it undoubtedly will be the same way for Ohio State in the future. Wisconsin arrived making its third appearance in the Big Ten title in four years. The Buckeyes were looking at capturing what slipped through their fingers in last year’s loss to Michigan State. But, the stakes were higher as a college football playoff spot was also in the cards for OSU.
The Gophers had a shot at something they haven’t achieved since 1967 – a Big Ten title. Of course, that would mean defeating Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, a feat undone since 1994. It would also include beating Ohio State the following week, an accomplishment only realized twice since that magical 1967 season. Minnesota’s 2014 edition, however, could put a challenge into both the Badgers and Buckeyes. Today would be for the Big Ten West Division title. Paul Bunyan’s Axe was also at stake. This highly coveted trophy awarded to the winner of this border battle has been in Wisconsin’s trophy case for ten straight years -more incentive for Minnesota.