Wisconsin vs Ohio State: Big Playmakers Who Will Take over Big Ten Showdown
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Wisconsin Badgers will provide the first true test to the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes when they travel to Ohio Stadium on Saturday, September 28 in a classic Big Ten matchup.
Both teams boast some hefty playmakers and the game figures to be a prime matchup between two powerhouse teams looking to impose their will within the conference.
For Wisconsin, head coach Gary Andersen will look to get the most out of running back Melvin Gordon and linebacker Chris Borland. On the other side, Urban Meyer will hope that Ohio State can bank on strong performances by quarterback Braxton Miller and linebacker Curtis Grant.
The big showdown promises to be a highlight-reel-filled day for both teams as the Buckeyes and Badgers—ranked No. 4 and No. 23, respectively—look to establish themselves atop the Big Ten.
Who will have a bigger impact on Saturday's game? Melvin Gordon or Chris Borland? #Badgers— ESPN Milwaukee (@ESPNMilwaukee) September 27, 2013
Gordon could be one of the primary difference-makers against Ohio State for a number of key reasons.
The Badgers are third in the nation in rushing and are averaging 350 yards per game on the ground. Ohio State's interior defense consists of six first-year starters in its front seven.
Gordon's rushing capabilities will be counted upon early and often, and the big question will be whether or not the Buckeyes defense will be able to contain him.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler feels that this particular game could be the pivotal matchup that forces Gordon into the national spotlight.
#Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon has been making a name for himself, but a big game against the Buckeyes could put him on the National Stage— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 27, 2013
Yet Gordon will have some of his carries taken away by fellow back James White—an aspect that will not change according to Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, per Jeanna Thomas of SB Nation.
Still, Gordon is far too good of a player to emerge from the game without some outstanding numbers. Look for him to have another big day and to continue as a part of the national discussion.
This game will provide additional motivation for the young, Ohio-born linebacker returning to his home state.
The senior earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2012 and has been a huge part of the Badgers' defensive success this season. For a defense that ranks No. 1 in the conference, Borland will again be asked to play a huge role containing Ohio State's vaunted offense.
Borland will likely be expected to contain Miller and to do his best to thwart his chances.
In anticipation of the game and returning to Ohio, Borland stated via The Journal Sentinel:
Some guys will try to downplay it, but I'm from nearby. I have friends and family that go there or are fans of that team. I'm excited for it. It is a chance to play in front of them ... It is a great environment. The Horseshoe is a really fun place to play. A win there would mean a lot.
Borland versus the Ohio State offense will be a key matchup to watch, and expect this defensive star to have plenty of big moments during the game. The Badgers' prospects for success are counting on it.
Ohio State Buckeyes
There was doubt whether or not Miller would be starting against Wisconsin in place of Kenny Guiton. According to Meyer, however, Miller will be the guy under center as reported by the Associated Press (h/t CBS Sports).
I think Braxton will probably start. He had a good day [Wednesday] and it looks like he's pretty close to 100 percent. I just wanted to make sure running the ball he's good, too. And he was. And Kenny's good.
Ohio State's plan is to start Braxton Miller against Wisconsin - Is that the right call? Vote in our poll http://t.co/5ciVrY9ppC— Ohio State (@Ohio_State) September 27, 2013
In the wake of his knee injury, Miller may look a little rusty at the start of the game. Yet expect him to undertake some plays that stretch the field and force Wisconsin's defense to be honest. He will likely have to contend with Borland for a sizable portion of the game, so that will be a factor.
Yet Miller is far too good of an athlete to be entirely contained by Borland and the Badgers defense.
A number of read-option plays combined with a few quick passes will further showcase Miller's talents and keep the Buckeyes moving forward on offense.
Guiton, waiting in the folds, should also provide Miller with some motivation to keep himself atop his game.
With the relative lack of experience along Ohio State's front seven, Grant will be forced to shoulder most of the burden regarding the containment of Wisconsin's offense—the running game in particular.
If any player can do that, Grant is the one.
Grant will be expected to offset both Gordon and White on the ground and will look to make some plays against the passing game, too.
As tweeted by Brandon Castel of The-Ozone.net, Meyer is hoping for big things out of Grant against Wisconsin, considering how well he has been playing as of late.
Meyer said Curtis Grant is playing the best football of his career, which is pretty important going into this game.— Brandon Castel (@BCastOZone) September 27, 2013
Expect Grant to make a few big plays against the dual-headed monster of Gordon and White. Slowing their attempts up the middle will be Grant's primary focus during the game and one that may be worth watching.
Who has the most impressive game between Ohio State and Wisconsin?
Each team has a number of talented playmakers who will unquestionably impact the outcome of the game. For Wisconsin, a strong performance by Gordon and Borland would back up their Big Ten championship reign.
The Buckeyes want nothing more than to knock them off that pedestal and will count on Miller and Grant to be part of the means.
Whatever the case, expect each of these four stars to play a significant role. There should be some highlight-reel footage making its way into the national spotlight during the game.
All of the elements are there for that to happen.
All statistics, rankings and accolades courtesy of Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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