Ohio State Begins Conference Play With Wisconsin



Jim Davidson, Dan Harker, Tom Orr, ©1996 Ozone Communications LLC.


Ohio State opens conference play against the 2-1 Wisconsin Badgers this Saturday. The game will be at 7:30 p.m. on ABC, and Ohio State will be playing in all black uniforms for the blackout. The Buckeyes have seen the Badgers just three times in the regular season over the last decade, with Ohio State winning all three matchups. Wisconsin has not beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since 2004, and their most recent win in the matchup came back in 2010.


The Buckeyes come into this matchup as the heavy favorite following their demolition of in-state opponent Toledo 77-21. The spread currently sits at -18.5 favoring Ohio State and ESPN's Football Power Index Matchup Predictor gives Ohio State an 89% chance to win the game on Saturday. Wisconsin is coming in following a 66-7 victory of New Mexico State. The Badgers lone loss of the season came in Week 2, as they were upset by the Washington State Cougars 17-14.


Wisconsin boasts the fifth leading rusher in the Big Ten in Braelon Allen, who came into the season ranked as the best running back in the conference. Ohio State's defense that has played well against the run this season is going to be tested big time in Saturday's game. They have only allowed 84.3 rushing yards per game. While the big focus in this game will be on the running game for Wisconsin, they do have a talented, yet inconsistent man at quarterback in Graham Mertz.


Mertz was in many talks as a potential Heisman candidate going into last season but being in a run heavy system did not lead him to much success through the air. Mertz is a talented and accurate QB. He's completed a career high 71% of his passes this season for around 700 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He will not win the game for Wisconsin, but he will force the Buckeyes secondary to stay honest all night long.


He has three main targets that have each eclipsed 100 yards receiving thus far on the season in tight end Clay Cundiff and wide receivers Skyler Bell and Chimere Duke. These three have pulled in five of the six receiving touchdowns this season and are going to be the top players the secondary of Ohio State will have to stop.


On the defensive side, the Badgers are being led by linebacker Maema Njongmeta, who leads the team with 19 total tackles on the season. Fellow LB Nick Herbig leads the team in sacks with four. Wisconsin's defense has forced 10 turnovers in just four games this season. The Buckeyes have had just one offensive turnover thus far on the season, but if they are going to have a second, it will likely come against this Badgers defense.


Ohio State's offense comes off a 700 yard performance last weekend and now boast the No. 1 ranked offense in the nation for total yards and are 10th in points per game this season. Ohio State ranks 35th in the nation in rushing yards with the stellar backfield of TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams, but the real weapons lie outside of the hashmarks, as the top four wide receivers have combined for 10 touchdowns this season.


Ohio State has also received help from standout tight end Cade Stover, who has over 100 receiving yards on the year. The offense will have their work cut out for them, and they need to avoid the Wisconsin linebackers to keep rolling the way they have so far on the season.


The Buckeyes defense has also been led by their linebackers this season in Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers, but safety Lathan Ransom has also joined the conversation for leader of the defense. He ranks second on the team in total tackles. Safety Ronnie Hickman has Ohio State's lone interception on the season as well. The defense ranks 21st in the nation in total defense. They have been outstanding and have been a driving force for Ohio State's perfect start to the season.


Expect a lot of runs from Wisconsin as always but don't be surprised if Mertz spreads the ball out as well. So long as Ohio State avoids turnovers and can maintain their style of play that we've seen thus far, they should take home a big win to start conference play.


Score Prediction: OSU wins 36-16


How to Watch:

  • TV: ABC 7:30 p.m.

- Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analysis), Holly Rowe (sideline)

  • Radio: 97.1 FM/1460 AM

- Paul Keels (play-by-play), Jim Lachey (analysis), Matt Andrews (sideline)






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