Madison, Wis. — Wisconsin is ready to hit the road.
After stumbling early, the Badgers have climbed back into the Big Ten West Division mix. But they've played only two games away from home this season, losing both.
They get a chance to change that Saturday when they travel to conference newcomer Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) for the first time, followed by a second consecutive road game at Purdue.
Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) then closes the regular season with a three-game stretch against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota — the three teams ahead of the Badgers in the division.
"It's 0 and 0 right now," said senior defensive end Warren Herring, who returned to action in last Saturday's 52-7 rout of Maryland after injuring his knee during a 28-24 season-opening loss to LSU.
"You have to get the next win that's in front of you," he said. "That's how you have to look at it. You can't approach it as, you know, we've got so-and-so down the road and we need to be looking for them early. You can't do that because any team in the Big Ten can pull out a win. That's the type of conference it is."
After losing to LSU, the Badgers handily won three consecutive non-conference games before dropping their league opener 20-14 at Northwestern, leaving little margin for error the rest of the way.
"We know what we have to do. We have to win every game and we're going to take it game by game for the rest of the season," senior tight end Sam Arneson said.
In dominating Maryland, the Badgers turned in their most complete performance of the season, piling up 527 yards of offense behind quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy.
Stave, who has regained the starting role he had last year, completed 9 of 15 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, including a 47-yarder to Alex Erickson. The more mobile McEvoy, who began the season as the starter, rushed four times for 84 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown run.
Of course, the Badgers still rely on their ground game, led by Heisman Trophy contender Melvin Gordon, second in the nation with 166.9 yards per game. Gordon, averaging 7.6 yards per carry this season, ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries against Maryland.
Like Maryland, Rutgers is in its first year in the Big Ten, and returns home after a pair of road losses, a 56-17 defeat at No. 13 Ohio State and a 42-24 loss to No. 16 Nebraska. The Scarlet Knights are 3-1 at home.
"They've lost two back-to-back really tough games against two very-high-quality opponents," Arneson said. "I'm sure they are excited to get a Big Ten team in their stadium on their terms. I know they'll be ready to go and I know we will be, too. It should be a good game. I'm really excited to go out there."
The trip to Piscataway, New Jersey, is only the second long road trip for Wisconsin, which bused to Northwestern.
"It is unusual to think we're going to get on the airplane for a second time. It's crazy to think that is the case this late into the season," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said.
"The key for us is to have the ability to prepare correctly. I think we prepared very well for the road games before. I felt like we were ready to play. We just haven't won on the road, so that's a big thing for us to be able to get on it and win a football game."