Game Six: Wisconsin Badgers
Location: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH), 3:30 PM EST, ABC
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Wisconsin Players Who Were Recruited by Ohio State
RB John Clay, OL Josh Oglesby, WR Kraig Appleton, and DE Pat Muldoon. Lesser extent—OL Jake Bscherer, OL Bill Nagy, WR Kyle Jefferson, and CB Prince Moody.
Wisconsin Rushing Offense vs. Ohio State Defense
Wisconsin is leading the Big Ten in rushing offense with a little over 217 yards per game, while Ohio State's run defense ranks first in the Big Ten at allowing a little over 83 yards per game. This will be the key matchup for the game and could be the key factor in determining the winner of the game.
Wisconsin's rushing attack is led by big John Clay with 582 yards this season; Clay is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. At 6'2" and 250 lbs., Clay is truly a load to bring down.
Clay is helped in the running game by Zack Brown, who does not have the physical dimensions of John Clay, but is still averaging 4.1 yards per carry behind the traditionally massive Wisconsin offensive line.
Brown has had some fumbling problems in recent games, so it will be interesting to see how much he plays against Ohio State.
Keep an eye on No. 68 Gabe Carimi for Wisconsin, as he is arguably Wisconsin's best offensive lineman. Wisconsin is the most effective team in the Big Ten in red zone offensive efficiency.
Ohio State's defensive line is fast and deep, led by senior DE Doug Worthington and junior DE Thaddeus Gibson. Ohio State rotates interior defensive linemen, such as Todd Denlinger, Cameron Heyward, Robert Rose, and true freshman John Simon.
Losing an interior lineman such as Dexter Larimore
with a knee sprain for this game will test Ohio State's depth tremendously.
Ohio State's linebackers, led by junior MLB Brian Rolle, will be tested by Wisconsin's massive offensive line. I want to see how senior LB Austin Spitler plays against Wisconsin.
Edge: Even. Ohio State has been playing very well defensively since and including the USC game, but Wisconsin's running game may be Ohio State's biggest test yet. The loss of Larimore for this game makes me call this one even. As I wrote up above, this is the key matchup for the game.
Wisconsin Passing Offense vs. Ohio State Defense
In years past, Wisconsin's passing game has not been nearly effective.
Behind the play of QB Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin is leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency. Tolzien has been completing nearly 66 percent of his passes and has thrown nine touchdowns versus three interceptions so far this season.
Wisconsin's leading receivers are WR Nick Toon and TE Garrett Graham.
Ohio State will welcome back the return of senior captain and safety Kurt Coleman from a one-game suspension. Ohio State's secondary currently ranks second in the Big Ten in pass defense efficiency.
I will be curious to see if Ohio State will cover Garrett Graham with a linebacker such as Ross Homan or if they will bring in Anderson Russell as a nickel defensive back.
Edge: Even. As I have written up above, Wisconsin is very effective in the red zone and has been playing well offensively, both running and passing. Ohio State is the first big defensive test this Wisconsin team will have faced so far this season.
Ohio State Rushing Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
Ohio State's rushing offense ranks third in the Big Ten with nearly 189 yards per game, while Wisconsin's rushing defense ranks seventh in the Big Ten with allowing 128 yards per game.
Ohio State will return RB Daniel "Boom" Herron from an ankle injury that kept Herron out of the game last week versus Indiana. I look for RB Brandon Saine, who had a career game against Indiana, to start against Wisconsin.
I look for Wisconsin to employ a defensive strategy similar to what USC attempted by stacking eight or nine in the box, daring Ohio State to win through the air. Ohio State has abandoned its traditional I-formation and has been using spread formations to help get their running game going.
Edge: Ohio State. Brandon Saine looks to be the best running back on the Ohio State roster, and I believe this may be his most pivotal game yet as a Buckeye. QB Terrelle Pryor's impact as a runner will also play a part in this game as well on designed quarterback draws and option plays.
Ohio State Passing Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
Ohio State ranks last in the Big Ten in passing offense, while Wisconsin's pass defense ratings rank eighth.
Terrelle Pryor had a solid game last week against Indiana, throwing three touchdowns. Pryor's favorite targets are WR Dane Sanzenbacher and WR DeVier Posey.
Wisconsin's defense is led by DL O'Brien Schofield,
who is leading the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss.
The Wisconsin secondary, led by CB Jay Valai
, is fearsome group of tacklers, as Ohio State's Sanzenbacher and Herron discovered last season in Camp Randall Stadium.Edge: Wisconsin.
With the news
that several Ohio State offensive linemen have been battling the flu this week, I believe this will give Wisconsin the edge at disrupting Ohio State's passing game. Terrelle Pryor may need to step up in the pocket to avoid sacks; look for Wisconsin to assign a spy on Pryor to negate his rushing threat.
Ohio State's kickoff coverage ranks second in the Big Ten, while Wisconsin is right behind at third.
Ohio State K Aaron Pettrey may be making his coaches nervous
with his missed kicks last week against Indiana.
Wisconsin's Brad Nortman ranks fourth in the Big Ten in punting while Wisconsin's Philip Welch is doing a solid job on field goals for the Badgers.
Edge: Even. Both teams place a tremendous emphasis on special teams.
Jim Tressel is 1-2
against Wisconsin in Ohio Stadium. Wisconsin has traditionally been a challenging opponent for Ohio State, going back to the Earle Bruce and John Cooper regimes.
With a 3:30 PM kickoff and first place in the Big Ten standings on the line, this is as big as it gets for the Ohio State home crowd.
Edge: Ohio State.
Just like last season—and almost every game
during Jim Tressel's career against Wisconsin—I look for this one to come down to the wire.
Jim Tressel is 3-3 against Wisconsin, but I look for Ohio State's defensive speed to be the difference in this one against the Badgers.
It should be late in the fourth quarter, but I'm going to go with Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 21.