One play, 97 yards.
When the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Madison, Wisconsin two years ago, that’s all it took to ignite the 81,194 fans packed tightly inside Camp Randall Stadium.
David Gilreath's 97-yard kickoff return to open the game knocked the Buckeyes off kilter, and nothing they did with the remaining 59 minutes and 48 seconds got them back on track or quieted the crowd.
Ohio State—losing that game 31-18—became Wisconsin's sixth straight victim inside Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers had defeated 15 straight opponents at home since then before falling to Michigan State two weeks ago, halting an impressive 21-game home winning streak that spanned four different seasons.
Wisconsin's home-field advantage is undeniable, but is Camp Randall the Big Ten's most inhospitable stadium?
This is really a two-party conversation between Wisconsin and Ohio State. Penn State used to have an argument, but the recent NCAA sanctions has reduced what used to be a steady flow of over 105,000 fans inside Beaver Stadium to something south of 95,000. That number will only continue to fall over time.
Camp Randall seats 25,000 fewer fans than Ohio Stadium, but that doesn't make it any easier to play in.
Since the 2009 season began, Wisconsin is an astounding 26-2 at home. During that span, the Badgers only suffered losses to Iowa (in '09) and Michigan State.
Part of the reason Camp Randall is such a tough environment to play in is because of the fans. The Wisconsin faithful are some of the most motivated tailgaters in the country, and when you give that group of people a full day to get excited about a football game, it creates an electric environment.
Wisconsin associate athletic director Justin Doherty summed it nicely, "It's not that the football game is secondary, but it's the culmination of the day. Being at Camp Randall Stadium and all around it is an experience for people here." (via tusl.com)
But does that make it a tougher place to play in than Ohio Stadium?
The Buckeyes are 26-3* at home dating back to the 2009 season, matching Wisconsin's victories while having one more in the loss column. Ohio State fell to USC in Columbus back in 2009, then lost to Michigan State and Penn State at home last year.
*For the sake of this argument, Ohio State's vacated wins from 2010 have been included.
Opponents frequently talk about how hard it is to play at Ohio Stadium. When Texas traveled north to play the Buckeyes back in 2005, quarterback Vince Young led his team to a come-from-behind 25-22 victory.
That didn't stop Young from saying this at the end of his collegiate career, “Ohio State, man, Ohio State was the loudest place I’ve ever played.”
What are your thoughts? Do you think Wisconsin has the best home-field advantage in the conference, or does that distinction belong to the Buckeyes?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or continue the conversation with me on Twitter @davidreg412.
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