Ohio State Football: Fast Start a Key to Victory over Wisconsin

Jeff Bell@@JrayBellCorrespondent INovember 13, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 03:  Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Illinois Illini on November 3, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Illinois 52-22. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Ohio State faces perhaps its toughest test of the season on Saturday, and getting off to a fast start will be critical.

It's easy to note the importance of a quick start in football, but some teams are capable of coming from behind while others, like Ohio State, are better off with an early lead.

Take the game against Cal for example. It's not the most impressive of victories, but it may not be a win at all if it weren't for the 20-7 lead the Buckeyes took into halftime.

Or how about their matchup with Indiana back on October 13? Ohio State led 24-14 at halftime and held on to win 52-49 in a wild shootout. Had the team fallen behind early, it would have been difficult to come back against a Hoosiers team that was putting points on the board whenever it felt like it.

Of course, games like the one against Purdue are an exception. That time, the Buckeyes tied the game up with seconds remaining and held off the Boilermakers in overtime.

But considering the environment this game will be played in, putting points up early is more important than ever.

Camp Randall Stadium is not an easy place to play and the Badgers are coming off a 62-14 win over the same Indiana team that gave Ohio State fits.

A good comparison might be the contest against Penn State, where the Buckeyes faced a Nittany Lions team that had reeled off five straight wins. Beaver stadium was decked in white and louder than ever.

While the game was just 7-7 at halftime, a third-quarter surge by Ohio State put it up 28-10 and the game was never really in doubt after that. Had it jumped out to an 18-point lead in the first half, the game might have been over even sooner.

Part of the reason a fast start is so important is that the Buckeyes are a run-first team. They chunk off yards on the ground as well as anyone, but they are 101st in the country in passing yardage.

If the clock is ticking and the Buckeyes find themselves behind, they'll have to resort to a part of their offense that isn't as well-oiled as they'd like it to be.

Braxton Miller is improving and it's a process, but how many Ohio State fans would be comfortable knowing that his arm, not his legs, has to save the day?

The Badgers have a similar approach on offense, as they enjoy success when the ball is in the hands of Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist last season. But they too are in the bottom fifth of the country in passing yardage.

A quick start by Ohio State would force the Badgers into uncomfortable territory.

The totality of the 2012 season may be meaningless for Ohio State, but moving to 11-0 while under the shadow of a bowl ban is nothing to scoff at. In order for the wild ride to continue, the Buckeyes must be the first team to take off on Saturday.