The undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes take on one of the biggest challenges of the season when they travel to Madison this Saturday to play the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Buckeyes (10-0) can't participate in the postseason thanks to NCAA sanctions, but there's still a lot of pride on the line when these two schools meet. After a dominant stretch of five-straight conference championships for the Buckeyes, Wisconsin has won at least a share of the championship the last two seasons.
Last time the Buckeyes traveled to Camp Randall Stadium, they were stunned by the Badgers 31-18. The Buckeyes returned the favor in The Shoe last season as they beat Wisconsin 33-29 on a last-second Hail Mary.
Considering the conference implications that have usually surrounded this game, the Wisconsin-Ohio State game has turned into quite the rival recently. With an undefeated season on the line for Ohio State and Wisconsin fighting for a conference championship, this should be another exciting chapter.
Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
When: Saturday, November 17, 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ABC, ESPN2 (check local listings)
Stream: Big Ten Digital Network
Spread: Wisconsin -3 (via Bovada)
It's not very often that a team that is undefeated this late in the season is also an underdog, but that's the case with Ohio State here.
The Badgers are giving Ohio State three points, but really this should be a pick 'em. The Badgers have the home-field advantage and generally play well on the road, but Ohio State has the confidence of knowing it beat Wisconsin last season. Since that 2011 encounter, the young Buckeyes have only gotten better.
Wisconsin is still a huge threat in the Big Ten conference, but it isn't as good as the 2011 edition that was led by Russell Wilson.
In a close matchup like this, it's best to go with the points. It won't be easy for the Buckeyes, but you have to like getting three points with a team that hasn't been beaten all season.
Over/Under: 52.5 (via Covers.com)
Though both of these teams are known for playing great defenses, it tends to be a shootout when they actually get on the field.
The Buckeyes have an explosive offense with Braxton Miller at the helm. His running ability is difficult to prepare for and once you load up the box he has the ability to hit Devin Smith on the long ball. It's a real nerve-wracking situation for defensive coordinators.
Wisconsin's offensive unit got off to a slow start this season, but has slowly got back into form. Danny O'Brien didn't quite turn out the way anyone thought he would, but Joel Stave came in and got the offense back on track.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, Stave has been lost for the season due to injury and fifth-year senior Curt Phillips will be getting his second start. He made his debut against Indiana last week, but only had to pass seven times for the Badgers to put up 62 on the Hoosiers.
Wisconsin quietly has one of the best defenses in the country and is only allowing 17.2 points per game. However, it hasn't seen anything like the Ohio State offense all season. The over looks like a good bet here.
Ohio State Injuries (According to USA Today)
LB Etienne Sabino (Leg)
DB Devan Bogard (Knee)
RB Jordan Hall (Knee)
RB Warren Ball (Foot)
Wisconsin Injuries (According to USA Today)
QB Joel Stave (Shoulder)
DL Jesse Hayes (Leg)
LB Cody Byers (Concussion)
The Buckeyes can't play in the postseason, so the BCS is irrelevant to them. However, with a win they would be one step closer to running the table and claiming an undefeated season, a feat that would see them wind up very high on the AP poll at the end of the season.
For Wisconsin, it isn't ranked going into the game but a win would give it a Top 25 resume. A win would also guarantee that it clinches the leaders division and takes on either Nebraska or Michigan for the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth.
If it can beat Ohio State, Wisconsin will show that it really deserves to be in Pasadena.
Keys for Ohio State Victory
For Ohio State to win, it'll need the defense to contain the Badgers on the ground. The Ohio State run defense has been erratic at times this season.
With Jonathan Hankins in the middle, it has the personnel to limit Montee Ball between the tackles.The real challenge will be containing him on the outside. The Buckeyes have given up big plays on the outside to teams like Cal and Nebraska this season. They can't afford to do that with Wisconsin.
If they stop the ground game, they'll force Curt Phillips to beat them. Considering it's his second career start, that's a winning proposition for the Buckeyes.
The offense is going to do what it's done all season. There will be a heavy dosage of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, as long as it avoid turnovers the offense will put up the points. It comes down to how many times the defense can stop the Badgers offense.
Keys for Wisconsin Victory
The Badgers have to get Phillips in rhythm early.
We know that the Badgers can run the ball. Despite his struggles this season, Montee Ball is one of the most accomplished backs in college football. However, with Phillips making his second start in such a huge game, he has to get comfortable early on.
On defense, it's all about forcing Miller to beat you with his arm.
For all the Heisman hype surrounding the sophomore quarterback, he really hasn't matured that much as a passer. On the season he is completing 56.9 percent of his passes and has struggled to complete more than 50 percent against teams that have found ways to contain his running.
If Wisconsin wins this game, it'll be because it held Miller to the kind of game he had against Purdue before leaving with an injury. Miller was averaging 3.9 yards per carry on 12 carries and was 9-for-20 through the air for 113 yards and an interception.
This one should be a dandy.
The Buckeyes haven't played many quality teams in getting to 10-0 and they'll see a pretty good one in Wisconsin. The Badgers have the personnel to beat the Buckeyes, but it'll come down to who plays the better game.
Wisconsin is the home favorite, but in a shootout, Ohio State has the more experienced trigger man at quarterback. Expect the Buckeyes to win a thrilling shootout, but it could come down to who gets the ball last.
Final Score: Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 31
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