Wisconsin Football: 5 Reasons Why You Can't Sleep on the Badgers vs. Ohio State
Just as with Michigan State, the Wisconsin Badgers have been involved in some barn-burners with the Ohio State Buckeyes over the past few seasons.
This Saturday should prove to be no different when the Buckeyes visit Madison, looking to keep their perfect record intact. Meanwhile, the Badgers have already sealed their bid in the Big Ten Championship Game, but they have taken a step backward from a season ago.
As a result, Ohio State is expected by many to improve to 11-0 this weekend despite Wisconsin coming in as a three-point favorite.
Can the Badgers build some momentum heading into its clash with the Legends Division champion? Here are five reasons why you shouldn't underestimate Wisconsin.
The Aura Surrounding Curt Phillips
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Curt Phillips remains an unknown, and that could be a blessing or a curse for the Badgers.
It's difficult to judge his performance against Indiana based on the level of talent Phillips faced and the fact that he only needed to throw the ball seven times. What we did see was an ability to take off running, and Phillips was effective in that aspect.
While we don't know what exactly Phillips can do with his arm, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It means Ohio State doesn't have much tape showing Phillips' throwing ability, so it's hard for the Buckeyes to game-plan for the redshirt senior.
We already know Phillips will be forced into more passing situations in facing a stout run defense, but Ohio State struggles against the pass, so it could be the perfect formula for the Badgers.
The Running Game Regained Its Swagger
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In case you didn't hear, the Badgers set a school record against Indiana in rushing yards, racking up a total of 564 yards on the ground. Breaking a rushing record at Wisconsin is saying something, even if it did come against Indiana.
Not only that, but Montee Ball is only one touchdown away from tying the all-time FBS record set by Travis Prentice at 78. There's no doubt that Ball will be hungry to break that record on senior night in front of the Badger faithful.
Wisconsin also saw the return of left tackle Rick Wagner, who is regarded as a potential first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Throw in the ability of James White and dual-threat quarterback Curt Phillips, and the Badgers could have a bevy of success despite going up against Ohio State's strong rush defense, which ranks No. 16 in the nation.
Ohio State Struggles Away from Home
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The very team Wisconsin just completed a 62-14 trouncing of gave Ohio State all it could handle earlier in the season. The Buckeyes only managed a three-point victory over Indiana, and they have had similar problems elsewhere on the road this season.
To Ohio State's credit, the Buckeyes have pulled out road victories in some hostile environments this season at Michigan State and Penn State, but heading into Madison and Camp Randall Stadium could be Ohio State's toughest challenge yet.
It's only the Buckeyes' fourth road test, and in their previous three road games, Ohio State has won by an average of just 5.3 points. That could explain why the Buckeyes are three-point underdogs heading into Saturday afternoon's showdown.
The Badgers Stuff the Run
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Ohio State has once of the most formidable rushing attacks in the country, led by quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. It makes for the eighth-best run game in the FBS.
But Wisconsin may have the answer for Miller and Co. Led by linebacker Mike Taylor, Chris Borland and defensive end David Gilbert, the Badgers have the best run defense in the Big Ten, good for No. 13 in the nation. Wisconsin also has allowed the third-least amount of rushing touchdowns and first downs in all the FBS.
Miller's dual-threat ability poses a completely different threat, but the Badgers have already gone up against Taylor Martinez, and the defense should be able to apply what it learned from that experience.
As opposed to last time around, the Badgers will have Gilbert—the team's best pass-rusher—on the field, as he was injured for last year's contest when the Buckeyes upset Wisconsin in Columbus. That could make a huge difference for Wisconsin.
The Allure of Camp Randall Stadium
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The last time these two teams faced off in Madison, No. 18 Wisconsin pulled off the shocking upset of No. 1 Ohio State, ending the Buckeyes' hopes of an undefeated season and a national championship.
This time around, the Buckeyes are once again undefeated, but a postseason ban prevents them from contending for the BCS title. Either way, you can bet they want to avenge their defeat from 2010 and finish what they started this season.
But Camp Randall Stadium is no joke. The Badgers had the second-longest home winning streak to LSU before losing to Michigan State three weeks ago, and that loss was likely a result of Joel Stave's broken collarbone on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
It's senior night, and the crowd ought to be fired up for a chance to knock the Buckeyes off their undefeated pedestal—again.