PROVO — For the first time ever, a Big Ten team is visiting LaVell Edwards Stadium when BYU hosts No. 10 Wisconsin this weekend.
The Cougars played Penn State in Provo in 1992, a year before the Nittany Lions officially joined the Big Ten Conference.
BYU left tackle Thomas Shoaf grew up in the heart of Big Ten country in Columbus, Indiana. The Badgers’ trip to Provo Saturday (1:30 p.m., MDT, ABC) is significant to him.
“It’s a lot of fun. We’re so happy that (athletic director) Tom Holmoe has been able to get us opportunities like this to play across the country and see what we can do against other conferences,” Shoaf said. “Obviously, growing up in the Big Ten, I’ve got a lot of respect for Wisconsin and their physicality. A lot of my friends have played there and it’s playing guys I grew up with … They’ve got big, corn-fed guys up front. They’re physical.”
When BYU coach Kalani Sitake hears the name Wisconsin, he thinks about athletic director Barry Alvarez, who restored glory to the Badger program when he served as head coach from 1990-2005.
“They’re big guys and Barry Alvarez has been there forever. His influence on the program with the power running game — they had a running back go for 200 last week and another one that went for 100 — so that tells you what they hang their hat on,” Sitake said. “It’s going to be a slugfest in the trenches. We’re looking forward to the matchup and redeeming ourselves from the last two weeks.”
BYU is coming off a 19-13 loss to arch-rival Utah last weekend after getting trounced by LSU the previous week at the Superdome in New Orleans, 27-0.
“We’re looking forward to having Wisconsin come to our home this weekend. It’s a top-10 team coming into our stadium. We’ve got to move on and fix our issues and get on to our next opponent,” Sitake said. “It’s nice that a great team is coming in. It captures your attention. As much as the game hurt last week, it’s nice to have something to look forward to right away.”
This is the first time a top-10 team has played in Provo since the Cougars entertained No. 10 Oregon State in 2012. BYU lost that contest, 42-24.
Wisconsin opened the season with a 59-10 home victory over Utah State and a 31-14 win at Camp Randall against Florida Atlantic.
Last Saturday against the Owls, Badger running back Jonathan Taylor ran 26 times for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Chris James had 16 carries for 101 yards. On the season, Taylor has rushed for 357 yards. Wisconsin rolled up 564 yards of offense against Florida Atlantic.
Against the Aggies, the Badgers fell behind 10-0 early before scoring 59 unanswered points, including 28 in the third quarter.
“Wisconsin kept doing what they’re good at. Defensively, they played a sound game,” Sitake said of the Wisconsin-USU game. “They lost a lot of guys that went to the (NFL). They were able to replace them. That’s what great teams do. We’re expecting a really good team. They’re in the top 10 for a reason. It’s good to have them at home.”
After playing a Southeastern Conference opponent and a Pac-12 foe the past two weeks, this is another measuring-stick opportunity for BYU.28 comments on this story
“We pride ourselves in playing the best competition we can,” Shoaf said. “We’re not looking to back down from a fight. We want to be physical and show them we can step up and play at their level.”
The Badgers are heading west for a true road game for the first times since a 2013 trip to Arizona State. ASU defeated Wisconsin, 32-30.
“I hope they like the mountains here,” Sitake said of the Badgers. “We’re looking forward to playing them here. Having them in our stadium is going to be fun.”
No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0)
at BYU (1-2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM