Mike Riley began the hype without even being asked.
Oregon State’s football coach called Saturday’s game against No. 12 Wisconsin the biggest nonconference game to be played in Corvallis.
Not many ranked nonconference ranked teams have played in Reser Stadium. Most of those memorable upsets have been against conference rivals such as USC.
The Beavers have done well as the home team against those nonconference opponents ranked in the top 25, posting a 5-5 record.
“I think it’s an opinion, but it’s arguable,” Riley said. “I’d take them (as the best team) over anyone else who has come in here.”
The last time the Beavers played a team in the top 25 in Reser Stadium was in 2009, a 28-18 loss to No. 17 Cincinnati. The last victory was against No. 13 BYU, 24-19, in 1977.
Other wins came against No. 11 Arizona State, 24-18, in 1971 (before the Sun Devils were a conference member); No. 14 Baylor, 22-15, in 1963; No. 19 West Virginia, 51-22, in 1962; and No. 8 Michigan State, 25-20, in 1949.
Losses have been to No. 15 Santa Clara, 7-0, in 1942; No. 10 Syracuse, 19-8, in 1961; No. 14 Arizona State, 44-14, in 1973; and No. 19 Kansas, 28-16, in 1976.
By looking at the rankings, the 1949 Michigan State game was the biggest nonconference home game for the Beavers.
However, that game, along with the Syracuse, West Virginia, Baylor and Arizona State contests, was played in Portland.
That leaves the Badgers as the biggest nonconference opponent to come to Corvallis.
“I do love this kind of game,” Riley said. “Some of them have been hard in the past, but they’ve been good for the program.”
Players have taken notice who they are facing. Cornerback Jordan Poyer broke the final huddle of a recent defensive practice by bringing up Wisconsin.
He pointed out to his teammates the national TV audience on FX, a top-15 team and a full Reser Stadium. Poyer rhetorically wanted to know how his teammates were going to react and prepare.
“We want to surprise some people, so why not open up against a top-15 team,” Poyer said. “They are coming to Reser and the stadium is going to be packed, loud and a fun atmosphere.”
The Beavers face a team that is coming off a near upset by Northern Iowa, a Football Championship Subdivision team, in its season opener. That wasn’t how a program that went to the last two Rose Bowls wanted to begin the season.
So the Badgers will want to make a statement on the road in a Pac-12 Conference stadium.
Wisconsin is notoriously a fast starter, compared to OSU starting slow and getting better at the end of the season.
The Badgers have won 33 straight nonconference regular season games.
“They are just a good football team overall,” Riley said. “We just have to play at a high level right out of the gate.”
OSU was one of the 33 last year in a 35-0 loss in Madison. The Beavers were in the second game of a rebuilding year with a young roster.
Quarterback Sean Mannion was still in a position battle with Ryan Katz, and was playing in his first road game.
After a stellar first game, starting running back Malcolm Agnew was out with hamstring issues.
“Last year wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” Mannion said. “We did some good things like move the ball. But we have to be better in the red zone. We’ll learn from that.”
Mannion tries to keep an even demeanor when going through the ups and downs of a season. However, even he showed a little more excitement when considering the prospects of kick-starting the season with an upset at home.
“You want to do well in every game if it’s a top-10 (team) or not, but we need a first win of the season and it might as well be Wisconsin,” Mannion said.