Mad town is angry no longer as Bret Bielema's boys took it to Ohio State from the onset. Though Ohio State tried to make a game of it in the second half, it was only cosmetic as Wisconsin rolled the No. 1 ranked team.
Here are five things we learned:
5. Special teams finally bit hard enough to hurt Ohio State
Ohio State has given up a lot of blown coverages on both kickoff and punt returns this year. Until this point they were able to absorb those deficiencies because of an opportunistic defense and—to be frank—outmanned opponents.
It finally took its toll tonight as Wisconsin took the opening kick off 97 yards for the first score of the game. Instead of Ohio State getting an opportunity to take the ever-rowdy Camp Randall crowd out of the game, the opening dash to the end zone only gave them more fervor and ignited an emotionally charged Wisconsin team that thoroughly pushed around the Buckeyes on both offense and defense.
Here's hoping the coaches get this figured out before the game at Iowa or else history could repeat itself.
4. This year's version of the Ohio State defense is not quite as good as year's past
There is no doubt that Ohio State still has a pretty good defense, but it is becoming increasingly evident that it is not going to flat-out shut teams down this year. Teams have been able to move the ball all too well at times—even Eastern Michigan has been able to at least move the ball a little bit.
Through six games, the defense has done fairly well but has been the benefactor of turnovers and at times a high-powered offensive attack. Because of the combination of injuries and youth, the offense is going to have to continue to score in key games if they are going to keep the chance of a championship in the cards.
3. Boom Herron has taken over at tailback
At the begin of the year, Brandon Saine was technically the starter—though it was really 1A and 1B with Boom Herron.
One game with Saine missing from the backfield could be chalked up to a game plan, but two in a row against totally different style opponents suggest that Herron is now the feature back.
Saine will still get his touches and act as a nice weapon because of his catching ability, but Boom has run with more aggression and vision this season. You can bet that the coaching staff has taken notice of the fact that Saine is more of a straight-line sprinter and will attempt to get him the ball in space as they have tried to do the last couple of weeks.
Perhaps with the concentrated reps of being a No. 1 guy, we will continue to see marked improvement. The team is going to need it if any hope remains at staying in the Big Ten title race and—with luck—a redemptive opportunity to still squeak in for all of the marbles.
2. Wisconsin is a much, much, better team at home
So Wisconsin goes to East Lansing and lays an egg, then comes home and pounds Minnesota (which in itself is not that impressive), and then physically manhandles Ohio State.
I know that most teams are going to be better at home than on the road, but in Wisconsin's case it seems to be extreme.
Under Bielema, Wisconsin is a staggering 30-3 at home, but a very average 12-10 on the road. That stadium, that turf or that crowd always takes the Badgers to a higher level of play. Get them on the road and the team can look very pedestrian at times.
This game, unfortunately for Ohio State, played out in the same pattern.
1. Wisconsin is more physical than Ohio State
How dare I say it, but stay with me on this. Ohio State fans take great pride in pointing out the fact that the Buckeyes can out-physical anyone. A team built on the solid tradition of the Woody Hayes philosophy of running the ball and beating the man in front of you can surely out-muscle any team.
Yes, Ohio State is physical, and on most weeks it is certainly going to be the hardest-hitting team on the field. I am now sold however that Wisconsin always plays the Buckeyes tough because they are the one team that, on a consistent basis, can line up and often times hit those silver helmets in the mouth.
As teams have gone more to wide-open offenses, including the current day version of the spread, the player that gets recruited on defense has had to change to keep up. The prototypical linebacker has had to get more agile to play in space and thus a little less hearty. Safeties and even the occasional defensive lineman have also had to have the ability to run and be more versatile.
What does all of this mean?
Ohio State is not immune to this change, and though they will probably always be one of the more physical teams out there, Wisconsin's offensive philosophy has continued to remain in the old style of play that the Big Ten has been known for.
The result is what you see tonight. Anyone watching the game would be kidding themselves if they did not see a Wisconsin team that beat down the Buckeye defensive line and linebackers. It is a cyclical world, and Wisconsin's resistance to change has actually made them a hard team to play for Ohio State.
Before we close out Buckeye fans, please remember how life felt after the Purdue loss last year. I can assure you that the sky is not falling and that all will be just fine. It is time to get the house in order and look to clean the rest of the slate to still win the Big Ten.
Who knows, if things fall right, this team could still find its way to Glendale as well.
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