Wisconsin-Oregon St. Preview

The Associated Press

Wisconsin isn't about to complain about its opening victory, no matter how unimpressive it may have been.

After a sluggish start to their Big Ten title defense, the 13th-ranked Badgers head to Corvallis to face Oregon State on Saturday.

Wisconsin held off FCS opponent Northern Iowa 26-21 in its season opener last Saturday, holding on after leading 26-7 in the fourth quarter. Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball rushed for 120 yards and scored a touchdown for the 21st consecutive game.

"You've got to touch a hot stove once," coach Bret Bielema said. "Once you get burned, you're not going to do it again. And hopefully our guys learn, hey, you've got to put people away when we can."

Quarterback Danny O'Brien threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns while handling the pressure of his first start for the Badgers after transferring from Maryland. He also has the task of replacing Russell Wilson – now the Seattle Seahawks' starter.

"It's difficult," said Ball, who needs 17 touchdowns to break the all-time NCAA record. "You really can't compare a lot of quarterbacks to Russell - I mean, look at him now. But I believe what they both have in common is their leadership and their ability to make plays on their feet and also in the air.

"... I think he did a great job with his leadership and demanded and commanded this offense in a great way."

Wisconsin – a favorite to claim its third straight league title – has won 33 straight regular season non-conference games, the second-longest streak in the nation behind LSU's 38. The Badgers have gone 11-2-1 since 1993 against Pac-12 opponents, with the only two losses to Oregon.

Now they have the challenge of facing the Beavers, who had their season opener against Nicholls State postponed last weekend due to Hurricane Isaac.

"It's going to be fun to have a little Pac-12 challenge," Bielema said. "The road games are road games. You've got to accept them for what they are. Wrap your arms around them, embrace them, hug them up and make the best of them."

The Badgers handed Oregon State a 35-0 drubbing last season in Madison and won the teams' only other meeting back in 1961. This is their first trip to Corvallis.

Not only is Wisconsin the first Big Ten team to come to Corvallis since Iowa in 1971, the Badgers are the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to visit since 1977. The Beavers won both of those previous contests, beating the Hawkeyes 33-19 and upsetting No. 9 BYU 35 years ago.

"It's as big a non-conference game as Oregon State has hosted," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "I think it's awesome. It's going to be a great atmosphere here."

Nicholls State's inability to fly out of Louisiana last week has left Oregon State in an unusual situation. The Beavers also have a bye next week, meaning they will have played only one game by the time they start Pac-12 play against UCLA on Sept. 22.

The postponement of the opener also led to a bit of gamesmanship between Bielema and Riley. Since there is no 2012 game tape of Oregon State to request, Bielema refused to approve sending the Beavers the traditional coaches' film that features angles other than what was shown on television - and even went as far as making sure the conference office followed suit.

"I've been assured by the Big Ten office that (sending the film) wasn't going to happen," Bielema said. "And, of course, we informed Oregon State and our video director reached out to them after the game on Saturday and said we're not sending this film obviously because we didn't get one on them."

The Beavers are coming off a 3-9 season in 2011, the school's second straight losing record. Quarterback Sean Mannion, who took over as a freshman early last season, threw for 3,332 yards with 16 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

His top threat is senior receiver Markus Wheaton, who caught 73 passes for 986 yards but only one touchdown in 2011.

The Beavers have lost six of their last seven regular season non-conference games.

What to Read Next