This weekend, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes will travel to Madison to face the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers. The Buckeyes are coming off of two strong conference wins, while the Badgers are coming off a bye after a tough loss to Michigan. Ohio State has won the last four match-ups against Wisconsin, but the Buckeyes only won by over seven points once. As the playoffs approach, a win would help both Ohio State and Wisconsin.
What to Watch: Ohio State at Wisconsin
Ohio State Rushing vs Wisconsin Front Seven
The last time these two teams met, the story of the game was how efficiently Ohio State ran the ball. The Buckeyes ran the ball 38 times for 301 yards and scored four times. Ezekiel Elliott led the assault with 20 rushes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns. Freshman running back Mike Weber will more than likely lead Ohio State in rushing this weekend. Weber already has 83 carries on the season for 566 yards and two scores. The Buckeyes are currently ranked 3rd in the country in rushing offense.
The Wisconsin defense will not go down without a fight however. The Badgers defense is currently ranked 6th against the rush, allowing only 3.12 yards per carry and two touchdowns. Junior linebacker T.J. Watt, brother of J.J. Watt, has been leading the Badgers defense with 7.5 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks. Junior Jack Cichy will also be worth watching. Cichy currently leads the team with 28 tackles and 3.0 for losses.
Ohio State Passing vs Wisconsin Secondary
Despite junior J.T. Barrett being in the Heisman race, the Ohio State passing offense has not been elite. The Buckeyes are currently ranked 84th in the country in passing offense, averaging 214 yards per game. These statistics are slightly skewed after only 93 yards against Indiana. Barrett only completed nine of his 21 attempts with a touchdown and an interception. Barrett was able to still have a solid day, with 26 rushes for 137 yards.
The Badgers secondary will certainly be watching film of the Indiana game to learn how to stop Barrett. Wisconsin’s secondary is currently ranked 34th in the country in passing yards allowed and 18th in interceptions. Junior Derrick Tindal leads the Badgers with three interceptions this season. Tindal has had success against stronger teams as well, picking off both Michigan and Michigan State in their last two match-ups.
Wisconsin Rushing vs Ohio State Front Seven
The Wisconsin rushing attack has been relatively weak this season. The Badgers have rushed for 906 yards and 215 carries this season for 8 touchdowns. This ranks them 78th among FBS teams this season. Senior Corey Clement has led Wisconsin so far but has struggled in Big Ten play. In the last two games, Clement has ran for a total of 122 yards on 40 attempts. Averaging only a little above three yards per carry may prove to be a weak point for the Buckeyes to exploit.
As for Ohio State, their rushing defense has been solid this season. The Buckeyes have only given up 97.8 rushing yards per game and have yet to give up a rushing touchdown. This ranks them 9th in the FBS. Ohio State’s defense is full of players that can stop the run, having five players with over three tackles for losses. The Buckeyes have also forced four fumbles already this season.
Wisconsin Passing vs Ohio State Secondary
Wisconsin has had their fair share of quarterback problems this season. Fifth year senior Bart Houston started the season at quarterback, but after two and half poor performances, he was taken out for freshman Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook has not played much better, throwing three touchdowns and five interceptions since starting. Hornibrook and Houston have combined to give Wisconsin the 97th best passing offense in the FCS averaging 7.14 yards per attempt.
Head Coach Urban Meyer will look to exploit the Badgers poor passing attack. Ohio State has earned the reputation of one of the best secondaries in college football despite being so young. The Buckeyes are 5th in the country, allowing 148.6 yards per game, and 4th in interceptions with 10. Freshman Malik Hooker has earned the reputation of being a lock down safety for the Buckeyes, securing four interceptions for 117 yards while scoring once. Hooker could have scored twice but a penalty brought the ball back last week against Indiana.
This game will be determined on how efficient the Ohio State offense can be. The Buckeyes defense should be able to have the edge over Wisconsin’s offense however. As long as the Buckeyes offense plays to the level they are capable of, Ohio State should be able to win in Wisconsin.