Ohio State vs Wisconsin Preview

The Essentials
What: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Where: Daaaaaaaaa Shoe
When: 8:00 PM, Oct. 29th, 2011
The Line: Wisconsin -7.5
Television: ESPN
Weather: Upper 30s to low 40s, 20% chance of rain

OSU and Wisconsin have brewed themselves a strong rivalry in recent years. Of the past ten matchups between Wisconsin and Ohio State, half have ended in upsets. The other half have contributed to the outcome of the Big10 championship race, in one form or another. This includes last year’s game, when the top-ranked Buckeyes suffered a special teams meltdown that gave 18th-ranked Wisconsin the victory.

The Buckeyes have been very clear: This date has been circled on their calendar for an entire year. Wisconsin. Payback. Night game. Script Ohio under the lights. Homecoming. Old school Big10 pro-style power. Nike Pro Combat uniforms.

Adventures in Optimism
Fans of both teams well know that, in recent years, schedule and ranking are meaningless. Overconfidence in this game invites psychological pain. Concerned about Wisconsin ranking in the top six nationally in both offense and defense? Well, OSU was ranked there last year and it didn’t give them an advantage.

Of course, the comparisons to past years can only go so far. Ohio State is under new management, and predicting what a Fickell-led, full-of-freshmen team is capable of when we only have Tressel senior-led teams against which to compare is tenuous at best.

But, for a moment, let’s allow ourselves some room for optimism. Bollman aside, Ohio State’s offense may very well be better than we all think. Until the injury to Miller caused a team-wide meltdown, they were moving the ball at will against Nebraska.

The rushing performance against Illinois has not gotten the attention it deserves. Sportswriters, bloggers, and armchair quarterbacks have focused on the poor passing game and ignored the more impressive issue: that Ohio State ran where it wanted, when it wanted, against a solid Big 10 defense, that knew what was coming and had put ten – TEN – defenders in the box in a futile attempt to stop it. Excluding the sacks (which were passing downs), OSU only had two negative plays rushing the ball all afternoon.

I don’t care if OSU was rushing against JoeBob’s Tire and Lube University – it’s almost impossible to run against a box stacked with ten defenders. And yet OSU did it for the entire afternoon… with no magic, no trickery.

OSU is 19-1 when Boom Herron gets 55 yards. Do you think Boom will get 55 yards this week? I’m betting he can.

The bye week came at the perfect time. Coaches have been reporting that OSU will unveil a new short-passing game to better complement Miller’s strengths. Against Illinois, Bollman called 12 passing plays; that number is expected to rise significantly.

For all of Wisco’s success over recent years, it should be noted that Bret Bielema’s success in “big” games is really poor. He’s 1-5 against top 10 teams (the lone win courtesy of OSU’s special teams meltdown last year), and more often than not tends to cave when the stakes are high.

Have I mentioned that the Badgers’ special teams belong in special class? Wisco is ranked 98th in field goal accuracy and 118th in covering punt returns.

Adventures in Reality
If ever a beatdown looked better on paper, this is it. The stars aligned for Wisconsin this year. They have a team full of veteran leaders and star skill players, who get to play the (statistically) worst offensive OSU team in history for what should be a cakewalk to the B1G East title (no I’m not using that other term).

By this point it’s a broken record: OSU’s defense is good enough to keep the team within reach of any game this year. The poor offensive coaching, combined with a team full of first-year starters and #3 backups, is maddeningly unpredictable and what will determine a close OSU win or a humiliating blowout.

Jump for joy if:

  • OSU’s special teams and/or defense score
  • Miller completes double-digit passes
  • Two OSU RBs get 100+ yards

Doom is nigh if:

  • Wisconsin gets up big early
  • OSU’s offense is pulling three-and-outs in the second half, leaving the defense on the field for Wisconsin to wear down

I think I’d rather predict an upset and be wrong than predict a Wisco annihilation and be right. Therefore, based on matchup potential and rivalry issues only, I’m going for the upset: OSU 27-24.

Comments

  1. The problem with predicting anything with this team is that it has changed much more than probably any other team in the country on a week-to-week basis just in terms of personnel. From the QB situation to regaining the suspended Adams and then Herron, there’s just no way to take anything very meaningful from the early games.

    Right now, we’re just one unjustly penalized player away from this team’s full potential.

    Ohio State – 30
    Wisconsin – 21

  2. I have been on the upset train all week. I’m feeling good about this game. I’ve never cared for night games, but this one feels different. Maybe the Bloodbath (Scarlet-out, whatever you want to call it) will add to the excitement. Maybe we’ll be the one to take the opening kickoff to the house. Maybe Jonathan Hankins will belly slam Russell Wilson, cracking all his ribs.

    Maybe we’ll win.

    I’m going for the upset, too.
    OSU 30 Wisc 24

  3. I would like to add that if we win 2-0, I’ll still be incredibly happy.

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