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Matchup: Ohio State Buckeyes @ Wisconsin Badgers
Date: Saturday, October 16th, 7:00 ET
Location: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
Game Line: Ohio State -4
When Ohio State has the ball… Statistically speaking this season, the Buckeyes have been absolutely fantastic on offense. QB Terrelle Pryor is now the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at a number of different sportsbooks, and for good reason. He is certainly the best player on what might be the best team in the country. Pryor is just a yard shy of the team lead in rushing with 354 yards and three TDs, and he has thrown for a whopping 15 TD passes in just six games. His 1,349 yards through the air is validating himself as a legitimate passing quarterback that can run, as opposed to just a runner that can do some throwing of the pill. There are three legitimate rushing threats as well out of the backfield, as RB Daniel Herron, RB Jamal Berry, and RB Brandon Saine have combined for 757 rushing yards between them. Watch out for WR Dane Sanzenbacher as well. He might only have 27 catches, but he has 411 yards and a team high seven TDs to show for his work. This team is very well rounded and is scoring 43.2 points per game thus far on the season, the sixth best mark in the country. The Badgers just haven't looked great defensively in recent weeks, allowing big play after big play against the Michigan State Spartans and giving up 23 points to a Minnesota Golden Gophers offense that has struggled all season long. Still, at 308.3 yards per game allowed and 19.0 points per game allowed, this is the strength of the Badgers. There are just too many weapons to not give the Buckeyes the edge in this department.
Ohio State Buckeyes: A
Wisconsin Badgers: B-
When Wisconsin has the ball… There's no doubt what the Badgers are going to try to accomplish when they step on the field offensively. They plan on running the ball and running it right at you. No gimmicks. No trickeration. Just straight handoffs, and come try to tackle us. RB John Clay has rumbled for 692 yards on 115 carries with nine scores on the season, but unlike last year when there really wasn't anything else in the backfield to take off some of the load, he now has RB James White to rely on as well. White has 485 yards and eight scores, and he is averaging 7.7 yards per carry. QB Scott Tolzien definitely doesn't quite have a complete grade this year. We love the fact that he is averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt, but only seven TDs against two picks doesn't give us all that much confidence, especially since he only has one receiver that has more than 15 catches for 172 yards. The good news is that WR Nick Toon is back, and he has already caught 11 passes in just three games on the season. Of late, there have at least been a few chinks in the Ohio State armor defensively. Yes, this team still ranks No. 13 in pass defense, No. 4 in rush defense, No. 3 in total defense, and No. 6 in scoring, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been some flaws that are notable. The Buckeyes might have one of the best defenses in the land, but at least based on performances of late, we're going to give a slight edge here to the Badgers.
Ohio State Buckeyes: B+
Wisconsin Badgers: A-
Intangibles…. The first intangible that must be noted is the fact that we aren't so sure that the Buckeyes can play on the road. They only have one road game this year, and they were tested every single step of the way by the Illinois Fighting Illini. Of course, what we do know is that Illinois turned around the next week, marched into Happy Valley, and beat down the Penn State Nittany Lions. Maybe the Illini really are that good. What else we know is that Ohio State's special teams have been nothing to write home about. A field goal has already been blocked and returned for a TD this season, and there have been two kick returns for scores as well. The Badgers might not have a fantastic special teams unit, but they do know that they have a head coach that is gritty and won't let his team quit in HC Brett Bielema. There's also definitely an aura surrounding Camp Randall that cannot be ignored, especially at night. Since the middle of October 2008, there has only been one team to march into Madison and come away with a victory, and that was a very special Iowa Hawkeyes team last year. We also know that Wisconsin isn't going to be intimidated, as it has wins in 2004, 2003, 2001, and 1999 against Ohio State. Needless to say, the edge here is going to the hosts.
Ohio State Buckeyes: C
Wisconsin Badgers: B+
The Final Report Card… This is a very, very tough game for Ohio State, especially with that No. 1 ranking sitting on its plate. That will only amp up the Camp Randall crowd, which will be "jumping around" from the very first kickoff. If the Badgers can figure out how to slow down Pryor, this game has the potential to be very, very bloody. The Buckeyes tripped in an inexcusable way last year to the Purdue Boilermakers, and a very similar type of offensive outing would not only see them get beaten in Camp Randall, but beaten down in a bad way to the point that they would not be able to return to the National Championship picture. With the spread being so close, we have to have confidence that the Badgers can win this game, and our final grades give them the edge even though the Buckeyes have the better team.
Final Overall Grades
Ohio State Buckeyes: B+
Wisconsin Badgers: A