Predicting the Biggest Upset in College Football Week 12
Both Wisconsin and Ohio State have formidable run defenses capable of shutting down each other's rushing attacks coming into Saturday's game in Madison, but the difference will be Buckeyes dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller.
Wisconsin is a two-point favorite over Ohio State as of this writing (via Bovada), but the 30-27 loss to Taylor Martinez and Nebraska on Sept. 29 should be looming over the Badgers' heads.
You see, Wisconsin has allowed just 3.37 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns this season (23rd in the nation, via CFBStats.com), but defending a dual-threat quarterback like Martinez or Miller is another thing entirely.
Case in point: Martinez gashed the Badgers for 107 yards and a touchdown on 8.2 yards per carry on Sept. 29. That included a 38-yard touchdown run as the Cornhuskers erased a 17-point deficit in the second half to stun Wisconsin.
Miller has been a better running quarterback than Martinez this season. In fact, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel may be the only quarterback in the country who can stack up to the sophomore in that regard.
For the season, Miller has rushed for 1,166 yards (second among quarterbacks to Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch, who plays in the MAC) and 13 touchdowns. That includes scampering for 136 yards against a strong Michigan State run defense in East Lansing on Sept. 29.
You've probably heard this before, but Miller will be the difference for the Buckeyes this week.
I will say one thing, though.
Wisconsin has installed a different quarterback under center after Joel Stave's injury. Senior signal-caller Curt Phillips was ranked as the No. 7 dual-threat recruit in the 2008 class by Rivals.com, right behind former Oregon star Darron Thomas.
Last week, Phillips rushed for 68 yards on seven carries against Indiana in his first career start for Wisconsin. His dual-threat ability gives the Badgers an added dimension in Madison.
Still, that was Indiana, and this is Ohio State, which actually held Martinez to 40 rushing yards on 18 carries on Oct. 6.
Also, Phillips isn't the same dual-threat as he was when he first joined the Badgers. He's torn his ACL twice in his Badgers career and had surgery last season, causing him to miss the entire 2011 season.
Even Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada admitted, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Curt would tell you he's not who he was before the injuries, but I think he is probably throwing it as well as he has."
But "as well as he has" are the key words here. Going 4-of-7 for 41 yards against Indiana isn't spectacular. He also made some mistakes against Indiana that can't be repeated against Ohio State, like getting sacked when you are threatening on the opponent's 3-yard line or failing to recognize a blitzing safety.
Who will win on Saturday?
Phillips' inexperience should show against a Buckeyes team that has collected 22 sacks this season, fourth in the Big Ten, as well as holding opposing quarterbacks to 6.3 yards per pass attempt (tied for 26th in the country, via CFBStats.com) while notching 13 interceptions.
With a win against Ohio State on Saturday, Wisconsin could make things interesting in the Leaders Division. The Buckeyes face Michigan at the Big House in their final regular season game.
But Miller's dual-threat ability, combined with Phillips' inexperience, won't let the Badgers get that far.
Prediction: Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 24
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