Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: The Battle for the Big 10 Begins in Columbus
Countless articles across the internet are hinting of the demise of Ohio State at the hands of Wisconsin this Saturday as the Badgers head into Columbus to take on the ninth ranked Buckeyes.
Wisconsin, the only undefeated FBS team to not be ranked in the AP top 25 and one of two undefeated teams in the Big 10, is looking to earn some BCS respect and possibly a shot at the Big 10 title.
Ohio State is looking to earn some credibility on the National scene by making a statement against Wisconsin at home and proving this season that it can beat a legitimate team and skater against Navy and the last minute comeback against USC were flukes.
Wisconsin Offense vs. OSU Defense
This is quite possibly one of the most interesting matchups of the day. Wisconsin ranks 14th in the country in rushing offense while the OSU defense ranks 10th against the run. The Buckeyes have been notorious for their stifling run defense and this squad is no different, allowing an average of only 83.4 yards per game and giving up only four touchdowns on the ground.
The defense has also forced 12 turnovers in the first five games of the season. Wisconsin is averaging a decent 5 yards per carry, their leading rusher John Clay (6'2" 242 lbs) accounting for 582 yards and 7 touchdowns. These two units very well might cancel each other out and so the focus may shift toward the passing game.
Scott Tolzien is completing 65% of his passes, has accounted for just over a grand in the air, and has a trio of targets sitting at just over 250 yards a piece (Nick Toon: 269, Garrett Graham: 268, Isaac Anderson: 255).
If Wisconsin is going to win the battle on the offensive side of the ball, Tolzien is going to have to be the man to do it in my opinion. Ohio State is just too good against the run and, while it's going to be important for Wisconsin to establish the run, it will most likely be the effectiveness of the passing attack that keeps Wisconsin in the game.
OSU offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
Ohio State's offense has been something of a mystery this season. The highly touted Sophomore quarterback Terrell Pryor has seemed somewhat eclectic at times as he adjusts to the passing game and tries to build his pocket presence.
Some might attribute this to having an athlete of his caliber having to play "Tressel Ball," the nickname for the highly conservative offense that head coach Jim Tressel runs. Whatever the case may be, the kid has a cannon for an arm and, once he learns how to use it correctly, the OSU offense will be a force to contend with on the national scene.
As it stands right now Pryor is just 66 of 114 for 854 yards, not bad numbers by any means but not great numbers either. Pryor is, however, the leading rusher on the team with 298 yards and 3 touchdowns. Including Pryor OSU will be fielding 3 rushers with over 200 yards, Brandon Saine and Daniel Herron being the other two.
The key for Ohio State will be Pryor's ability to move around outside of the pocket and make plays with his feet. Wisconsin ranks second in the Big 10 in sacks and third in tacks for loss and will undoubtedly keep up the pressure against OSU.
Wisconsin also leads the nation in turnovers forced with 15 and will be hoping they can force Pryor into some bad situations who is 8-5 in touchdowns to interceptions. Ohio State has to focus on keeping hold of the ball and tiring out the Wisconsin defense with multiple looks and consistency.
Even though I have the advantage going to Wisconsin I'm not ready to put this game on upset alert just yet. I do find it kind of funny that the team going into this game as the "underdog" has statistically outperformed their opponent in almost every category that matters.
Ohio State has the talent and the intangibles to win this game but Wisconsin is not going to lie down like Illinois and Toledo did. This should be a close game but with the Buckeyes playing in the Shoe I have to give the win to OSU.
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