Wisconsin-Ohio State: Badgers, Buckeyes Battle for Big Ten Supremacy
Who: Wisconsin Badgers @ Ohio State Buckeyes.
Where: Ohio Stadium, ABC.
When: Saturday, October 10, 2:30 PM CST.
Sometimes people aren’t so smart.
For example, last Tuesday I overheard a restaurant employee complaining to a colleague about the Packers’ loss to the Vikings the night before: “The defense couldn’t stop the run,” he moaned.
Uh, person who should have been giving me my Angus Third Pound burger instead of pontificating on football: What game were you watching?
I’d say holding the NFC’s leading rusher to 55 yards on 25 carries was nothing short of spectacular run defense. The problem for the Packers Monday night was that the only person who was hitting the turf quicker and harder than Adrian Peterson was Aaron Rodgers.
Then today, I read an online story that included a shot of the next issue of Entertainment Weekly: The obviously doctored cover photo shows a pants-less David Letterman. Among the posted reader comments was one complaining that if Letterman really wanted his scandal to go away, he shouldn’t be posing for magazine covers.
Uh, clearly deluded person who thought the photo was genuine: You really think that David Letterman, a celebrity who fiercely guards his private life, would call a national magazine in the middle of a hugely embarrassing personal sex scandal and say, “I’ve got a great idea. You should take a photo for the cover of me with my pants off. You know, because I couldn’t keep my pants on at work because I was so busy having lots of sex. It’ll be hysterical!”
But the most egregious example of stupidity I came across this week was finding out that the Ohio State Buckeyes football team was favored by no fewer than 16 points to beat the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday.
Sixteen points? What is this, Florida versus Charleston Southern? The Harlem Globetrotters versus the Atlantic City Seagulls? The New York Yankees versus the Minnesota Twins?
The odds makers clearly haven’t been watching the Badgers play football.
The Badgers are a respectable 3-3 in their last six meetings with Ohio State. Only one of those losses, a 38-17 defeat in 2007, was out of hand.
And even in that game, when Ohio State was the No. 1 team in the country, the Badgers led, 17-10, in the third quarter. And the Badgers had a sluggish rushing attack because their star running back at the time, P.J. Hill, was out due to injury.
More importantly, the Badgers are playing good football right now. They dominated the Gophers last week in Minneapolis, particularly in the second half.
Wisconsin currently leads the Big Ten in five key categories: scoring offense, rushing offense, passer efficiency, turnover margin, and fewest sacks allowed.
Most importantly, they’re undefeated and one of only two Big Ten teams to be 2-0 in the conference.
That other team? Ohio State.
Yeah, they’re good too—but not 16 points better than the Badgers, even in Columbus.
Let’s take a look at the Channel 3,000 three storylines to Saturday’s game:
1. John Clay vs. the Buckeyes' Run Defense
If there was any doubt who Wisconsin’s best runner was, Clay obliterated that with his 184-yard performance against Minnesota.
Not only is Clay Wisconsin’s best runner, he’s the Big Ten’s best runner and statistically the fourth-best runner in the country.
Ohio State, however, boasts the conference’s best rushing defense, allowing a ridiculously low 18 yards on the ground last week against Indiana. But the Buckeyes haven’t faced a back as tough to bring down as Clay.
2. Scott Tolzien vs. Terrelle Pryor
In his first road game last week, Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien came back to earth a bit; he needed and got the run game that Clay provided to bolster his comparatively pedestrian performance (16-for-26, 1 TD, 1 INT).
Meanwhile, the Badgers held Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in check in last year’s 20-17 loss. Well, until the Buckeyes’ 80-yard fourth quarter scoring drive that won them the game.
If the Badgers’ defense can pressure or otherwise confuse Pryor, they should be able to force Pryor into some poor throws (Pryor has already been picked off five times this season while the Badgers have forced a league-best 15 turnovers).
While Pryor has received the media attention, Tolzien has actually been the superior quarterback, bettering Pryor in every statistical category. If Tolzien can outperform Pryor on Saturday, he should start getting the national attention he deserves.
Despite getting better every week, despite a passing game better than anyone could have hoped for entering the season, despite an elite rushing attack, despite a ball-hawking, opportunistic, aggressive defense, the 16-point spread in this game shows Wisconsin clearly isn’t held in high regard.
I don’t think they’ll win the game, but in their toughest contest of the season, the Badgers will make things interesting enough to earn that elusive respect.
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