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Originally published September 29, 2011 at 8:02 PM | Page modified September 29, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Bud Withers

This weekend's best party is Nebraska at Wisconsin

Nebraska at Wisconsin game is first matchup of top-10 teams in Madison since 1962.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

quotes Nebraska- Wisconsin? Guess I'll have to wear red & white Read more

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If you're spoiling for a party Friday night, we've got a can't-miss recommendation: State Street, Madison, Wis.

That's where the hedonist goes pretty much any night in Madtown, but the anticipation (to say nothing of the beer and the brats) will be rampant on the eve of Nebraska's visit to Wisconsin on Saturday at 5 p.m. (PDT).

The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison wrote this week that 20,000 to 40,000 Nebraska fans are expected to be in town, "most of whom won't make it into Camp Randall Stadium."

Which poses the question: Who's minding the soybeans back in Grand Island this weekend?

College GameDay will be on hand, and why not? This is the bellwether game for the new, expanded Big Ten, its most-awaited pairing of the season. It matches two run-centric programs with huge followings.

It's the first time they've met since 1974. Nebraska is eighth-rated by AP, Wisconsin No. 7, making it the first matchup of top-10 teams at Wisconsin since 1962.

With traditional Big Ten powers Ohio State and Michigan trying to find their way, this is a game that could propel the winner into the national-championship hunt.

It could also be a launchpad for the Heisman candidacy of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, the transfer from North Carolina State. The Badgers have usually featured hand-it-off-and-don't-screw-it-up quarterbacks, but this is a different animal: Wilson's 12.5 yards per pass attempt is tops in the country.

Other games of appeal, chronologically, Saturday:

Texas A&M (AP No. 14) at Arkansas, 9 a.m. — This is the Redemption Bowl, a week after A&M blew a big lead and lost to Oklahoma State and Arkansas was thumped by Alabama. It also pits former (Southwest Conference) and future (SEC) rivals. This is how it is among old antagonists: A&M's news release says the teams played annually from 1927-91. Arkansas' insists that streak was from 1934-91. It's a neutral-site bash at JerryWorld in Arlington, Texas.

Northwestern at Illinois (24), 9 a.m. - The 'Cats ran a promotional campaign for quarterback Dan Persa, after which he took September off (still rehabbing from Achilles tendon surgery). He's likely back for this one. Hard to believe, but this is Illinois' first 4-0 start since 1951. Some 75 of the Illini took a yoga class over the summer, which means if they keep winning, 2012 fall camps across the country might feature meditation rather than blocking sleds.

Baylor (15) at Kansas State, 12:30 p.m. — Robert Griffin III is one of the good stories of the 2011 season, the king of gaudy numbers in a September full of them. He's completing 85.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for more touchdowns (13) than he has incompletions (12). It's not like his accuracy is a fluke; he began his Baylor career with an NCAA-record 209 passes without an interception. The ex-Gonzaga basketball guard, Demetri Goodson, is a second-team cornerback this week for the Bears.

Clemson (13) at Virginia Tech (11), 3 p.m. — A marquee game in the beleaguered ACC, which is like being the biggest mountain in Kansas. (The league has lost 33 straight nonconference games against top-five competition.) Clemson averages 505 yards, Tech allows 231.3.

Alabama (3) at Florida (12), 5 p.m. — Only 36 more shopping days until the Alabama-LSU matchup. Until then, we'll see if Florida, coached by Nick Saban protégé Will Muschamp, has the chops to hang with the Tide. How about this Gators gauntlet? Its next four games are 'Bama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com




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