Yes, it really has been six years since Wisconsin and Michigan met on the football field. That these two successful Big Ten programs have gone so long without playing is a product of two division realignments (remember the Legends and Leaders?) and simply bad fortune for college football fans.
It was so long ago that Badgers head coach Paul Chryst, then the school's offensive coordinator, had to ponder what happened when last the schools met.
"I think the last time we were there was a good day," he said, before conferring with a sports information staffer. "That was a good day. I liked it."
For the record, Wisconsin won 48-28 in the Big House during Rich Rodriguez's third and final season as Wolverines coach in 2010. But now, the wait for a rematch is finally over. And, at least on paper, it certainly seems as though our patience will be rewarded with a heck of a contest.
No. 8 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) plays at No. 4 Michigan (4-0, 1-0) at 3:30 p.m. ET in a game with massive early College Football Playoff implications. Each program has dominated defensively the past two seasons. During that span, Wisconsin's defense ranks first in points allowed per game and second in yards allowed. Michigan ranks fourth in points surrendered and fourth in yards allowed.
"I’m wondering if the field is going to be wide enough," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters this week. "They play extremely hard. I had the pleasure of coaching Chris Borland a few years back and it’s a team of Chris Borlands. High, high energy. Tough, guys that can run and a big, physical team. Very impressed."
Not only is Wisconsin-Michigan the marquee game of the Big Ten this week, but it also represents one-third of a historic weekend of top-10 college football matchups. No. 3 Louisville plays No. 5 Clemson and No. 7 Stanford takes on No. 10 Washington. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Saturday will mark the first time since October 2002 that one weekend featured three games involving Associated Press top-10 teams. There hasn't been a week with three top-10 matchups all in conference play since November 1978. That was so long ago that one of the games involved two teams from the now-defunct Southwest Conference (Houston and Texas).
This will mark the second time that these two teams have met while each was ranked in the top 10. The first came in 1947 when No. 2 Michigan defeated No. 9 Wisconsin. Let's hope the game lives up to the billing as a classic.
Here's what's on tap for the rest of the Big Ten:
Wide-open West race: Iowa was the early favorite to repeat as Big Ten West champion. But the Hawkeyes haven't inspired much confidence with their play the past two weeks. First came the shocking last-second loss to North Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium. Then came Iowa's 14-7 victory over Rutgers. The Hawkeyes certainly will take the win, but they could use a statement performance Saturday at home against Northwestern. Making matters worse: Iowa has lost top receiver Matt VandeBerg indefinitely to a broken foot. He had 19 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns.
Perhaps this helps open the door for No. 15 Nebraska, which plays host to Illinois. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been exceptional. One year after throwing 16 interceptions, he has thrown just one. Five different players have caught touchdown passes and the defense is much improved over last year. The folks in Lincoln could be in for a special season if this continues.
The Buckeyes are back: Ohio State had a bye week last Saturday, but no one forgot about the Buckeyes and their high-flying offense. OSU is averaging an astounding 56.7 points per game -- third in the country --- and 545.3 yards of total offense. That's bad news for former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who is in his first year as head coach at Rutgers. The teams meet Saturday at noon ET in Columbus. Rutgers lost top playmaker Janarion Grant last week against Iowa to a season-ending ankle injury. Defensive end Quanzell Lambert also will miss the year with a knee injury.
* When Michigan State and Indiana meet, one team is going to score a ton of points -- and it's usually the Spartans. Michigan State has won seven consecutive games in the series and is averaging 47.1 points per game during that stretch. The Old Brass Spittoon hasn't belonged to Indiana since the Hoosiers secured a 46-21 victory in 2006. This week, the teams play at 8 p.m. ET and Michigan State is favored by a touchdown. Quarterbacks Tyler O'Connor and Richard Lagow will be looking for bounce-back games after combining to throw eight interceptions in defeat last week.
* One of the more intriguing Big Ten games that hasn't received much attention this week is the Minnesota-Penn State game at 3:30 p.m. ET at Beaver Stadium. The Gophers have quietly opened the season 3-0 for the first time in three years and could be a dark horse to win the Big Ten West. James Franklin could use a strong showing from his Penn State team, which would drop below .500 this season with a loss. Penn State has lost all three of its starting linebackers to injury and ranks last in the Big Ten in run defense. Minnesota thrives on the ground, so tailbacks Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks and Kobe McCrary could be in for big days.