The Voice: Opportunity lays before Badgers in No. 1 Ohio State

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For the record, there are three occasions in Badger football history when Wisconsin beat the top-ranked team in the nation. In 1942, the Badgers bumped off Ohio State 17-7. That is the season Terry Frei covers in the superb book he wrote a few years ago, Third Down and a War to Go.

In 1962, the eighth-ranked Badgers of Pat Richter and Ron Vander Kelen fame hammered Northwestern 37-6. That Wisconsin squad eventually rose to No. 2 in the polls before the epic Rose Bowl game against USC.

Finally, in the 1981 season-opener, Dave McClain's Badgers made magic by shocking Michigan 21-14.

Badger fans old enough to remember those games cherish the moments, as well they should. Who wouldn't want to be part of that atmosphere? Just ask South Carolina fans, who witnessed the Gamecocks defeat previously top-rated Alabama last Saturday.

The Badgers are 16th in this week's coaches' poll, but as they head into this Saturday's showdown with No. 1 Ohio State, fans and media types continue to be unsure about this group. A popular belief is that Wisconsin is overrated. An elite team would find a way to win at Michigan State, and it would not need a blocked PAT to get past Arizona State.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that this team is good, but not elite. I also mentioned that we can all check back in a few weeks to learn whether Wisconsin can be such a squad. That time is approaching.

We can debate all we want about whether the Badgers are worthy of a top-20 ranking, but the fact is we will find out in the next two games whether this is a conference title contender. Nothing says challenging midterm exam quite like playing Ohio State and Iowa on back-to-back Saturdays.

Whatever the outcome on Saturday, I just want to see the Badgers give themselves a chance. Two years ago, they played well, only to let the Buckeyes off the hook. Yes, Terrelle Pryor engineered a clutch touchdown drive in the closing minutes, but Wisconsin had breakdowns at the worst possible time.

Last year, the Badgers held the Buckeyes to 184 yards of offense, but Ohio State returned two interceptions for touchdowns, then for good measure added a 96-yard kick return to the house.

Just give yourselves a chance. Maybe that is part of the message Lee Evans will deliver this week. Evans will be the Badgers' honorary captain, and he knows something about taking advantage of an opportunity. The Ohio native was on the receiving end of Matt Schabert's 79-yard pass that beat the third-ranked Buckeyes in 2003. It was Evans' only catch of the night.

One chance -- and on that night, the Badgers made it count. It was pretty crazy around here that evening. The outcome snapped the defending national champions' winning streak at 19 games.

Yep, it was kinda nuts around here when the Badgers beat the No. 3 team in the nation. Imagine what it would like be if Wisconsin beat the No. 1 team in the country.

Here comes that chance.
ON WISCONSIN