The #15 Wisconsin Badgers national title hopes may be dead, but their Big Ten title hopes are well and alive. Their route to the inaugural Big Ten Championship and a BCS bowl hits another potential barricade this weekend when they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.
At 4-3 and 1-2 in the conference, this Ohio State team is not your typical Buckeye team. In fact, this will be the first time since 1963 that the Badgers enter the game as the only ranked team.
Ohio State Synopsis: By now, pretty much everyone is well aware of the drama surrounding the Ohio State football team and most likely could see their poor play in 2011 coming. However, even with the suspensions, who knew the offense would be this bad?
Head Coach Luke Fickell has finally found his starting QB in Braxton Miller (pictured above), but the passing game looks to be beyond fixable. The Buckeyes rank 115th (yes, that’s three digits) in passing yards per game (127.9) and only because of an improving running game, they were able to jump to 110th in total offense (302.9). In their 17-7 upset of Illinois, the Buckeyes threw the ball an astounding FOUR TIMES. Of those four attempts, only one pass was completed.
Things the Buckeyes do have going for them is a solid defense and talented special teams unit. Through seven games, OSU’s defense is giving up only 16.3 points per game. Playing in Columbus will also be an asset as the crowd will be looking for their team to pull the upset and turn their season around.
For the full Ohio State season preview go here.
Wisconsin Synopsis: The heart-wrenching loss to the Spartans couldn’t have went any worse for Wisconsin. Yes, they had their opportunities and there may have been some questionable timeouts, but it doesn’t change how much was lost when the Badgers failed to win in their first true road test.
On the bright side, the Badgers have another road test and yet another chance to show the nation (the game is televised on ESPN) that they truly belong in a BCS bowl. It may not be the national championship, but is this team really as good as Alabama or LSU anyways?
Last time the Badgers won in Columbus, Kanye West busted on the scene with his first album College Dropout. The year was 2004 when Badgers RB Anthony Davis touched the ball 39 times for 168 yards and helped Wisconsin edge Ohio State 24-13; coincidentally, the Badgers were also ranked 15th at the time.
Today’s Badgers have a completely different offense than that in 2004, one which is balanced and led by dual-threat QB Russell Wilson. Even the Spartans top-ten ranked defense couldn’t stop the Badgers offense from putting up 31 points and 443 yards of total offense.
The key player on Saturday will be RB Montee Ball who has scored at least one touchdown in 13 straight games. Mr. Touchdown also leads the conference in rushing yards with 109.7 yards per game, including 115 rushing yards against a Michigan State defense who ranked third in the country against the run.
For the full Wisconsin season preview go here.
Prediction: Like I mentioned, I expect Ball to have a huge game and keep racking up the yards and touchdowns behind a great Badgers offensive line. Another guy who I think has a huge game for the Badgers will be LB Chris Borland, who’s an Ohio native and leads the Big Ten with 71 tackles. Ohio State will keep the Badgers under 50, but their offense just doesn’t have what it takes to be anything more than one-dimensional, thus I can’t see the Buckeyes scoring more than 20. For that reason, I like the Badgers to win by more than one score and make a statement after such a close loss in East Lansing.
Wisconsin 40 Ohio State 17
What do you think will come from the Badgers and Buckeyes meeting up in Columbus? Do you agree with my predictions? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.Follow paulmbanks