It must be Michigan week.
All over the Ohio State campus, the letter "M" has been covered with scarlet tape, attempting to rid the university of any association with its bitter rival. Passionate—maybe even crazed—students are jumping into frigid Mirror Lake on campus, and Buckeyes fans all over the country apparently “don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan” this week.
The annual meeting between Ohio State and Michigan is one of the greatest rivalries in sports. Many times throughout the years, the game has decided the Big Ten title and even has had national championship implications as recently as 2006.
While this year’s game will have an effect on the Big Ten race (directly or indirectly, depending on the outcomes of Michigan State’s and Wisconsin’s games), in all likelihood, the national title picture won't change regardless of who wins. The Buckeyes left most, if not all, of their national championship aspirations in Madison, Wisconsin.
In October, Wisconsin beat then-No. 1 Ohio State, 31-18, sending the Buckeyes plummeting in the polls. The Scarlet and Gray have won four straight since then, but haven’t been able to rebound in the polls the way they were able to on the field. They sit at No. 8 in the BCS standings with one game to play.
But what if Ohio State got a second chance to prove to the country, and more importantly the voters, that what happened against Wisconsin was a fluke?
What if the Buckeyes were granted a rematch with the Badgers? Would the outcome be any different?
Of course, any such talk is mere speculation. Ohio State won’t be playing Wisconsin again until next October. However, the thought that the Badgers beating the Buckeyes was simply a stroke of luck on Wisconsin’s part is intriguing.
For starters, the game was in Madison. For any school in the country, Camp Randall is a hostile place to play, and it gets even more intense at night, especially if the Badgers are going up against the No. 1 team in the nation.
The crowd was into it before the game started to well after the final whistle blew. Wisconsin’s opening kickoff return for a touchdown was the worst thing that could have happened for Ohio State. If Badgers fans weren’t screaming their heads off before the return, they certainly were after it.
The location of the game had a lot do to do with its outcome, as many games throughout the college football season do. Ask Oklahoma and Texas about playing Texas A&M at Kyle Field.
If the rematch were played at a neutral site, the Buckeyes would win seven out of 10 times, at least, and if it were played in Ohio Stadium they would win nine out 10 times. Even if the rematch were in Madison again, the Badgers wouldn’t necessarily win. It would probably be a toss-up, but Ohio State is the better team for a couple of reasons:
1. The Buckeyes played one REALLY bad quarter that cost them the Oct. 16 game
In the first quarter, Wisconsin had 146 more total yards than Ohio State (232 to 86). The Badgers accumulated 93 yards rushing to the Buckeyes’ 16, and they had 87 more yards of total offense.
A staggering statistic from that opening quarter is the time of possession. Wisconsin had the ball for 11 minutes and 30 seconds. Ohio State was able to run only 11 offensive plays, having possession of the ball for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
It’s no wonder the Buckeyes trailed 14-0 after one quarter; the Badgers had possession for eight more minutes than they did.
However, in the final three quarters, Ohio State actually beat Wisconsin in nearly every phase of the game.
From the second quarter on, the Buckeyes had:
- Seven more first downs than the Badgers (19 to 12)
- 48 more rushing yards (139 to 91)
- 62 more yards of total offense (276 to 214)
- Fewer penalties (2 for 14 yards to 3 for 35 yards)
- The ball for longer (TOP= 26:33 to 18:27)
- 20 more offensive plays
They just weren’t able to climb out of the massive hole they dug themselves in the first quarter.
2. Ohio State has more talent and better skill players overall
Outside of John Clay and Wisconsin’s mammoth offensive line, the Badgers don’t match up well position-by-position with the Buckeyes in terms of talent and skill level.
Quarterback: Terrelle Pryor over Scott Tolzein
Receivers: Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey over Lance Kendricks and Nick Toon
Defensive Line: Cameron Heyward, Nathan Williams, Dexter Larimore and John Simon over JJ Watt and company
Linebackers: Brian Rolle, Andrew Sweat and Ross Homan over Mike Taylor, Blake Sorensen and Culmer St. Jean
Defensive Backs: Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence over Niles Brinkley and his DB mates
3. Statistically, the Buckeyes are the better team
After 12 weeks, Ohio State ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense (13.9 ppg); Wisconsin ranks 28th (20.3 ppg).
Ohio State ranks 18th in total offense (446.2 yards per game); Wisconsin ranks 23rd (440.3 ypg).
Ohio State ranks third in total defense (241.1 ypg); Wisconsin ranks 26th (327.1).
Ohio State ranks seventh in turnover margin (plus-1.09); Wisconsin ranks 23rd (plus-0.64).
The Buckeyes also rank higher nationally in passing offense, rushing defense, passing defense and time of possession.
However, the Badgers do rank higher than Ohio State in rushing offense, scoring offense and number of penalties committed.
Wisconsin is a good physical team that won’t beat itself, but what happened in Madison back in October was a fluke. The Buckeyes are simply a better all-around team with more skill.