Location: Camp Randall Stadium (Madison, WI) 8PM EST, ABC
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Wisconsin Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: TE Travis Beckum, RB John Clay, OL Josh Oglesby, LB Elijah Hodge. Lesser Extent - OL Jake Bscherer, OL Bill Nagy, WR Kyle Jefferson, DB Shane Carter.
Wisconsin Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Here is THE KEY to Ohio State winning or losing the game - can they shut down, or limit, Wisconsin's running game? If Wisconsin can control the line of scrimmage offensively, Ohio State will be worn down and will lose the game. Wisconsin's effective running game is also the key to play-action passing. Considering how Ohio University and USC ran so effectively on Ohio State, you will understand why I am emphasizing this for Ohio State defensively. Keep this in mind - behind RB PJ Hill (5'11", 236 lbs) is RB Zach Brown (5'11", 207 lbs), who played well against Ohio State last year. Behind Brown is RB John Clay, who is Chris Wells-esque at 6'2", 237 lbs and played well against Michigan last week in limited carries. Leading the way for these backs is a line that averages 6'6", 319 lbs. Zoinks. Ohio State's interior defensive line needs to step up for this game. Here is where LBs James Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman, and Ross Homan will earn their scholarships. Better strap those chinstraps on a little tighter for this game, boys. Wisconsin ranks 3rd in rushing offense in The Big Ten, while Ohio State ranks 3rd in rushing defense.
Wisconsin Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Last week against Michigan, Wisconsin did not throw well until late in the game. QB Allan Everidge is a lefty and a Kansas State transfer who is sporadic. WR Kyle Jefferson is a Cleveland Glenville product who has good speed and provides Wisconsin their deep threat. With TE Travis Beckum coming back, Beckum gives the Wisconsin offense a poor man's Kellen Winslow Jr. effect with match-up problems. I look for Ohio State to try to lock LB Tyler Moeller or even shadow Beckum with CB Malcolm Jenkins in obvious passing downs. Wisconsin ranks 9th in passing offense in The Big Ten; Ohio State ranks 1st in passing defense.
Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Wisconsin Defense: Another critical key to this game is the return of RB Chris Wells for Ohio State. Without Chris Wells in the offense, it is visibly evident that Ohio State is not nearly the team preseason prognosticators believed would contend for this season's national championship. With the introduction of QB Terrelle Pryor as a running threat, Ohio State's rushing offense is much more difficult to defend, especially with Pryor on option plays. I would look for Ohio State to spread Wisconsin out, providing both Pryor and Chris Wells options to run, while also opening up passing options. While I have been a critic of RB Maurice Wells in the past, I would like to see him play in this game with his speed to the outside, especially if Ohio State can get him matched up on a Wisconsin linebacker with play-action passes out of the backfield. Wisconsin's rushing defense is physical against the run, so this should be another good area to watch on Saturday night. I look for Wisconsin to put a spy on Terrelle Pryor to try and slow him down. Wisconsin's rushing defense is ranked 5th in The Big Ten, while Ohio State's rushing offense is ranked 6th.
Ohio State Passing Offense vs Wisconsin Defense: Ohio State's passing offense ranks 10th in The Big Ten, with Wisconsin's passing defense ranking 4th. Keep in mind that with a true freshman QB Terrelle Pryor's skills as a runner, Ohio State will probably try to spread out Wisconsin to keep Wisconsin off-balance defensively. Last year, WR Brian Hartline had a good game (7 catches, 95 yards) against Wisconsin. If Ohio State spreads out Wisconsin, it is important that Pryor gains positive yards and avoids any 2nd or 3rd and long plays offensively. Wisconsin's pass rush is marginal, but considering how lackluster Ohio State's offensive line has played, I do not see that as an advantage for Ohio State. DB Shane Carter is an opportunistic defensive back ranked 2nd in The Big Ten in interceptions and needs to be accounted for when the ball is snapped. I suspect Wisconsin's crowd noise will do everything it can to force Pryor into mistakes on passing downs.
Special Teams: Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has a special teams background and is not afraid to go for fake punts or onside kicks, as opposing Big Ten teams have discovered during his tenure. Wisconsin's David Gilreath is leading The Big Ten in kickoff returns, while Ohio State's Ray Small is ranked 2nd in punt returns. Ohio State's A.J. Trapasso is 2nd in The Big Ten in punting, while Wisconsin's Brad Norman is ranked 4th.
Intangibles: Wisconsin has never lost at home under Bret Bielema in his tenure (16-0). Throwing in the fact that this is a night game, giving the home fans even more time to prepare for the game, makes this an ominous challenge for Ohio State. Throw in the fact that Ohio State traditionally struggles with Wisconsin (Jim Tressel is 2-3), and lost the last time at Camp Randall (2003 - Wisconsin 17, Ohio State 10), should give every Ohio State fan time to pause. Hopefully, Ohio State will have the lead when Wisconsin plays House Of Pain's "Jump Around".
I truly believe this is a game that will come down to the wire. If Ohio State can come out of the gate and score a touchdown, shut down Wisconsin, and score again, it will take the crowd out of the game, or at least silence them for a slight drunken roar. Again, THE KEY to the game for Ohio State is to slow down Wisconsin's running game. If Wisconsin is in 2nd and short, 3rd and short, Wisconsin will grind Ohio State's defense down.