If Dare Ogunbowale gets his way, there will be no music blaring over the speakers this week at the University of Wisconsin football team’s practices in advance of UW’s game at Northwestern this Saturday.
The fifth-year senior running back is not trying to take the fun out of practice. Rather, the Badger captain is looking for ways to make sure No. 8 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) is ready for the different atmosphere at Ryan Field, the home of the Wildcats (4-4, 3-2).
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“It’s kind of a dry type of field for a college football game,” Ogunbowale said.
Ryan Field is “dry” in the sense it may not be as loud as another stadium. It only seats about 47,000 fans, a considerably smaller stadium than other capacities throughout the Big Ten. Therefore, Ogunbowale said, the absence of music during practice this week may help the UW offense find ways to create their own juice to make sure they are hyped to play come Saturday, regardless of the atmosphere.
“Offensively, we got to start learning how to have our own energy,” Ogunbowale said. “When you’re playing at Camp Randall, we don’t have to worry about that because we have such a good atmosphere with the fans bringing energy for us.”
Ogunbowale said the Wisconsin defense does a great job of generating its own energy because of guys like fifth-year senior outside linebacker Vince Biegel, who said the absence of music this week is a good idea.
“Northwestern’s stadium poses different challenges that we’ve seen up to this point,” Biegel said. “It’s a little more of a quiet stadium. The crowd isn’t as much of a factor as we’ve seen previously.”
Especially coming off the high of a prime-time win over then-No. 7 Nebraska in front of an electric home crowd. With the transition to the more laid back Ryan Field, it will be necessary to create the energy instead of feeding off of it, redshirt junior tight end Troy Fumagalli said.
What Wisconsin doesn’t want is a repeat of 2014, when it stumbled to a 20-14 loss during an 11 a.m. kickoff under overcast skies and a half-full stadium.
“We turned the ball over more than we should,” Fumagalli said. “It was a typical Northwestern game at 11 a.m. We came out in a sleep. What’s good is it’s in a lot of our minds.”
Wisconsin has not won at Northwestern since 1999. UW head coach Paul Chryst was part of several of those losses as an assistant, but this will be his first time going to Evanston at the helm.
Each of those losses, Chryst said, have come because of what has happened between the lines on the field and not in the stands.
“Every stadium is different, and I think that’s what’s kind of cool about going on the road,” Chryst said. “It’s another experience, and no one place is like the other.”
Rankings hold little importance
The Badgers rose to No. 8 in both the coaches and the Associated Press poll this week after defeating Nebraska, but on Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Committee will release its first set of rankings.
The release of the rankings will be televised by ESPN in an hour-long special beginning at 6 p.m. When asked if he’d be watching, Ogunbowale said he didn’t even know there was a show about the rankings.
“I doubt that many guys will watch the show,” Ogunbowale said. “I’ll probably be watching Family Guy.”
That mentality derives from that of Chryst’s, who has emphasized to shut out outside noise, such as rankings.
“I think they matter to a lot of people, and there’s a lot of potential with it,” Chryst said. “I think for our team, or for any team, what really matters is what you do that week. The discussions don’t help you play the game. You got to play your season out.”
Sophomore nose tackle Olive Sagapolu (right arm) will miss his third consecutive game this week. Chryst said there was no timetable for his return, but that when the injury occurred, the coaching staff knew it would be some time before he’d be back.
The following players are questionable for Saturday: T.J. Watt (left shoulder), Austin Ramesh (right shoulder), Natrell Jamerson (left leg), Jacob Maxwell (right shoulder) and Griffin Grady (left shoulder)