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The Voice: Road trip offers opportunity for Badgers

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgAs much as I enjoy a home game at Camp Randall Stadium, it is always interesting to see a team hit the road for the first time. Prior to Big Ten play last year, the Badgers' only trip outside of Madison was a "road neutral" game at Soldier Field in Chicago against Northern Illinois.

This week figures to be a little different.

It seems the folks at Oregon State are billing this Saturday's tussle as the biggest non-conference game ever played in Corvallis.

"I think it's an opinion, but it's arguable," Beavers coach Mike Riley told reporters. The Corvallis Gazette-Times quotes Riley as saying "I'd take them (UW as the best team) over anyone else who has come in here."

So much for Bucky playing the "no respect" card.

Reser Stadium is the home of Oregon State football. It seats 45,674 fans. Not the biggest stadium, but my guess is it can get plenty loud in there.

It might be safe to assume that the crowd will be ready for a showcase game, with hopes of an upset that could spark a program that is not all that far removed from being very good.

The last two seasons have been a struggle for Oregon State. Last year in Madison, the Badgers trounced OSU 35-0.

However, in recent years, Coach Riley has had a couple of teams on the brink of winning the league title and earning a trip to the Rose Bowl. While few folks out west are expecting a run to the Pac-12 championship, many believe the Beavers will be much improved.

Quarterback Sean Mannion gained a ton of experience last fall, and entering his sophomore season, he knows he has one of the league's top targets in Markus Wheaton (73 receptions for 986 yards in 2011).

A year's experience should help the defense, as well, led by sophomore defensive end Scott Crichton, who is on the Lombardi Award watch list. Cornerback Jordan Poyer also is a big-time player. Last year he had four interceptions. In his career he has returned two picks for touchdowns, and in 2011 returned a punt 85 yards for a score against UCLA.

Since I don't play, it is easy to say this -- I'm hoping for a loud house on Saturday afternoon. After this week, the next road game is the conference opener at Nebraska. At night. You think it might be a tad noisy in Lincoln?

Might as well get a preview of coming attractions, right?

This week the Badgers get to test the old saying about how teams can make a big jump from the first game to the second. The mistakes from the opener were well-documented -- from a choppy offense to a defense that had costly breakdowns in the second half.

However, both sides were able to close the deal. The defense, with pressure from Warren Herring and a deflected pass from Ethan Hemer, stopped Northern Iowa on a critical fourth-and-1. Then the offense ran out the clock.

A work of art? Not really, but the Badgers will take it and learn some valuable lessons.

What they learn will come in handy as they make their first road trip of the season to face an opponent eager to show the college football world that it can roll with the big boys.