After rolling the overmatched FAMU Rattlers last week, things get a bit tougher this Saturday night as Ohio State hosts B1G/Leaders leader Wisconsin in an 8:00 PM game. The Buckeyes (4-0, 0-0) look to move into 1st place in the Leaders Division by shutting down the Badgers (3-1, 1-0).
First year Badgers Head Coach Gary Andersen was defensive line coach at Utah in 2004, Urban Meyer’s last year as Utah head coach, so there is familiarity between the two gentlemen. After a 4 year stint as Utah State’s head coach, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez hired Andersen to replace the departed Bret Bielema, who was banished to coach at Arkansas.
I’m going to gloss over most of the season-to-date statistics for both teams because I don’t think those numbers are relevant for this game. Wisconsin’s wins and “numbers’ were racked up against University of Massachusetts (MAC) who has won 1 of its last 16 games, FCS school Tennessee Tech (2-2) and a not very good Purdue team. Unfortunately, Ohio State’s schedule is pretty similar.
Here are two tables that summarize both teams’ offensive and defensive performances so far this season. As I mentioned above, with both teams having sketchy schedules, use these numbers more for a general indication of performance. The first table, is relative offensive performances comparison between Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Yep, a lot of yards and points against so-so competition.
Here’s the defensive comparison; it’s looks similar.
Now that we really know that Wisconsin and Ohio State took care of their early season opponents, we move on to the game at hand.
Ohio State on Offense
This could be an interesting challenge for Wisconsin, depending who lines up at quarterback for Ohio State. I’m assuming that Braxton Miller will start. As you know, Miller and Kenny Guiton bring different skills to the QB position, so although the base offense is the same, how it’s executed is a bit different with each QB.
Now might also be a good time to mention OSU’s receivers. I’m getting more comfortable with the reliability and performance of Buckeye wide-outs of Smith/Spencer/Brown/Fields, the TE’s (!) of Heuerman/Vannett and RB’s of Hall/Smith/Wilson.
Moving on to the running backs, I thought that Carlos Hyde played well enough in his first game back, and his legs should be pretty fresh at this point. I’m not going to speculate on playing time for Saturday, but I will say that Hall, Hyde, Smith, Elliott, Ball and Wilson bring an impressive array of different skills that could be difficult to game-plan against.
Well enough, but all of the above excitement is predicated on the OSU offensive line creating running lanes and providing solid pass protection. The challenge for them will be to hit and sustain blocks long enough for the RB’s to break into 2nd level or get the outside edge. They’ve generally had a pronounced talent edge up to this point, but that talent gap closes significantly this week. I’m sure that Coach Warriner has them focused on technique, leverage, angle-of-attack and, um snap count.
From a Badger personnel standpoint, they are led by Ohioan (of course) senior LB Chris Borland. He leads a physical defense with 7.5 tackles per game. Think of him as their Ryan Shazier. There may be a couple issues with their secondary members being nicked up and their availability this week.
Ohio State on Defense
This is where things can get a little dicey. As mentioned in the introduction, Wisconsin is a very formidable offensive team. Wisconsin uses the RB the triumvirate of Melvin Gordon (13 carries per game, 156 yards per game, 13.3 YPC, 7 TD’s), James White (14, 110, 7.25, 3) and Corey Clement (11, 84, 7.6, 4). Pretty gaudy numbers, I think.
I have one word for Wisconsin’s passing game; Jared Abbrederis. OK, that’s two words.. He has 23 of their 60 receptions for 15.9 YPC and 3 of their 6 passing TD’s. If Bradley Roby does nothing else Saturday night, he needs to attach himself, legally, to Abbrederis.
Since we’re on passing, Wisconsin is QB’d by sophomore Joel Stave. Stave’s line is: 60-95, 761 yards, 6 TD’s and 3 INT’s. Joel sports a QB rating of 145, which puts him in the middle of the B1G quarterback pack. He appears to be another Badger ‘caretaker’ quarterback who manages the offense and doesn’t lose games; whatever he was thinking at ASU notwithstanding.
Wisconsin’s offense isn’t too hard to figure out, which may explain why they are so good at it. They line up predominantly with 2 TE’s and a fullback and come at you. They use their TE’s to roll the edge to get outside and run a version of counter-trey with backside linemen and often a TE/FB pulling to play side.
New coach aside, this is still Barry Alvarez/Wisconsin power football. This will be an excellent test for OSU’s front seven performance and depth.
So, how’s it going to shake out? Right now the line is OSU -7 with over/under at 60, so Certain Professionals are anticipating something along the lines of a 34-27 (or so) Ohio State win. That sounds about right to me; neither team will score as many points as they are used to, and they will likely give up more than they have. This game may again come down to a Buckeye special teams play turning the tide for the home team. And the crowd; the crowd needs to make a difference Saturday night.
I saw something interesting while cobbling together this preview. Wisconsin has a well-earned reputation for fielding enormous offensive lines. The table, below, compares the sizes of Wisconsin’s and Ohio State’s lines. I’d say they are pretty similar.
Wisconsin’s line is anchored by 6’8″ 342 pound Rob Haverstein; a mountain of a man, there folks. Hopefully Coach Vrabel has his charges working on staying low to get leverage on this behemoth.
The game is scheduled for an 8:00 PM EST kickoff, so make sure you are well rested. Television coverage is through ABC. Please join us at tBBC for live in-game chat approximately 30 minutes before kickoff. We look forward to seeing you.