2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Wisconsin
The game against Northwestern was pegged as a trap game for Ohio State before the season started. Ohio State has shed that stigma and did not overlook the Wildcats, winning 52 – 3. Wisconsin also played in the Land of Lincoln, traveling to play Illinois as a 31 point favorite. They did overlook the Fighting Illini as 2 costly turnovers in the 4th quarter helped set up the game winning field goal to fall 24-23. This game was hyping up to be a battle of two potential unbeaten teams, and a possible game 1 of a 2 game series, with both teams meeting again in Indy. Wisconsin losing did put a damper on the game, but that does not mean this game is any less important.
Should Ohio State win, and Wisconsin wins out, with getting some help from another team to beat Minnesota, their path to the Big Ten Championship game is set. Ohio State can win out, and would make its third straight trip to Indianapolis to represent the East. Or, if Wisconsin wins and both teams win out the rest of the way, the Big Ten title game could be a defact-o play in game for the College Football Playoff. All of these are hypotheticals though, and fun to discuss, but the fact of the matter is that this game will be played on Saturday, and the outcome will help shape the projection for either team.
Ohio State plays a rematch of the Big Ten Championship game for the second straight week, as both teams played in the 2017 game. Wisconsin went into that game ranked 3rd in the country, and undefeated. Ohio State had come in with 2 losses, including a devastating loss to Iowa after a dramatic win against Penn State. Ohio State came out on top 27-21, and went on the defeat USC in the Cotton Bowl. Wisconsin still made a New Years 6 game, and defeated Miami (FL) in the Orange Bowl.
Ohio State leads the all time series 59-18-5, and is currently on a 6 game win streak. These teams have played each other close though since 2010, with the exception of the 2014 edition in the Big Ten Championship game, where Ohio State won 59-0 and propelled them to a berth into the inaugural College Football Playoff.
All eyes will be on Columbus for the noon kickoff, and Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff will be in the stadium preluding to the game.
Head Coach: Paul Chryst
2019 Record: 6-1
Location: Madison, WI
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: There is only so many times you can praise Ryan Day and his staff on how they have handled this season so far, but to look as dominant as they have and rank in the top 5 nationally in major offensive and defensive categories, this team is showing that they have the talent and potential to make a real threat for a national championship. The team has continued to approach the season one game at a time, and that has helped them overcome the trap games prior to some of their biggest games of the season, and with 5 games left, they just need to focus on this week’s opponent and get ready for their final bye week.
Offensively, the Buckeyes are 5th overall in yards per game, and are 3rd in the country in total rushing yards. The passing game ranks 62nd in the country, and that has in large part to do with the way the offense is run and blowing out opponents by half, but still average 239.6 yards a game. Defensively, they are 2nd overall in yards allowed per game. They only give up an average of 2.56 yards per carry, which is good for 4th in the country. They have also only given up 3 passing and 2 rushing touchdowns through 7 games into the season. Regardless of how one views their competition, Ohio State has looked dominant, and great teams are able to make good teams look average, and bad teams even worse. The defense was the Achilles Heel for the Buckeyes last year, and was ultimately the down fall when it came to the Purdue game, and allowing teams they were on paper more talented than stay in closer games.
The Buckeyes average 49.7 points per game, and only give up an average of 8 points a game, which is the best differential in the country. Wisconsin though will be their biggest challenge on both sides of the ball, and the Buckeyes cannot overlook them.
Justin Fields has thrown for 1492 yards so far this season, and with his 4 touchdowns against Northwestern, he has 22 passing touchdowns for the year. He did break his streak though of consecutive games with at least 1 rushing and 1 passing touchdown, but I am sure Ryan Day is still pleased with progress and poise of his second year quarterback. He has not broken a long run since the first drive against FAU, but with the way the running backs are toting the ball, he has not needed to do a lot with his feet. What he does bring though is an elusiveness for the oncoming pressure and help extends plays. He is third on the team in rushing yards with 291 so far on the season, and 8 touchdowns on the ground, giving him a total of 30 touchdowns for the season.
JK Dobbins rushed for over 100 yards for the 5th game this season, and only trails Jonathan Taylor by 10 yards to lead the Big Ten in rushing. For the season, he is at 947 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns. He has been explosive running the ball this season, averaging 7.1 yards a carry. Even though he trails Taylor as the lead rusher, he has done more with less carries, rushing for 134 times, compared to Taylors 157 carries. Master Teague has emerged as the clear number 2 running back for Ohio State, and was able to burst out against Northwestern as well. He currently has 512 rushing yards for the season, and 4 touchdowns. His rushing yards total ranks him as the 6th best running back in the Big Ten. Of the starting running backs for the other Big Ten teams, he is out rushing 8 other starters.
Chris Olave proved last week why he is one of the best receivers on the Buckeyes, hauling in 2 touchdowns against Northwestern and bringing his season total to 6 touchdowns, and 318 yards on 21 catches. Ben Victor still leads the team in yardage with 355 on 19 catches, and KJ Hill paces even closer to the all time receptions record. he has 294 yards on 29 catches and 4 touchdowns. Austin Mack and Garrett Wilson are also getting more involved in the passing game, both with over 10 catches now for the season.
Chase young added 1 more sack to his season total, bringing it up to 9.5 sacks. The defense has also forced 10 interceptions for the season, with 7 different players picking off at least 1 interception.
Wisconsin Preview: If Wisconsin didn’t lose, there might have been a really good chance that College GameDay would have made a stop in Columbus. They still have their goal in front of them, with a chance to still make the College Football Playoff, and make the Big Ten Championship game, but their margin for error has significantly decreased. Paul Chryst leads the Badgers in his 5th season, and a 48-12 overall record. He has led Wisconsin to the Big Ten Championship game twice, but has lost both times.
Wisconsin has continued their approach of running the ball as their primary attack to try and keep the ball away from their opponents as long as possible. This season, that have shut out 4 different teams in their first 7 games and boasts the number 1 overall defense in the country. Their overall statistics took a hit with the game against Illinois, but they are still holding opponents to 193.9 yards a game, and 7.6 points a game. Their offense has not been shabby either, averaging 39.7 points a game which is good for 12th in the country. They will be the toughest for opponent for Ohio State this season and will look to try and be the first team to hold Ohio State under 34 points.
Jack Coan is the starting quarterback for the Badgers, and he has done well for them this season. He is passing with a 76% completion rate, which is best for 2nd in the country. He has passed for 1383 yards and 9 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions. Wisconsin does not need him to be flashy, and he is not a running threat. Even though he is not Russell Wilson, his is a step above Hornibrook, who only had 1532 passing yards for the season last year.
Jonathan Taylor is the premier player for this team, and is their best chance at winning the Heisman. A win against Ohio State would help propel him amongst a list of 3 quarterbacks this season who are the current frontrunners. He is second in the country and first in the Big Ten with 957 rushing yards, and already has scored 15 touchdowns on the ground. He has opened up his versatility as well in the passing game, and has 4 scores in the air bringing him to a total of 19 touchdowns. There is not a lot left that Taylor needs to prove that he is one of the best running backs in the country, winning the Doak Walker award last season and is expected to declare for the NFL draft after this season. The second leading rusher is Nakia Watson who has 247 yards on 55 carries and 2 touchdowns.
To help compliment the running game, Quintez Cephus is the favorite target for Coan, who has 24 catches for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns for the season. The Badgers also utilize tight end Jake Ferguson who is the second leading receiver with 20 receptions and 242 yards. Coan has also spread the ball around to 5 other receivers who have north of 100 yards receiving for the year.
Linebackers Jack Sanborn and Chris Orr will be disrupters on the defensive side. The Buckeye offensive line will need to get to the second level in hopes to open up some running room for Dobbins and company, or else it will be tough to get any yardage against this defense.
Buckeye Spotlight: JK Dobbins. It will be another week where the running backs will be showcased. Last week, Dobbins was the leading rusher in the Big Ten, and now coming into this week Taylor took the top spot. It is clear that the Ohio State offense relies on the running game, and it has been discussed multiple times before, but their offense runs like an NFL offense. It will be a battle of who wants it more, because with these two defenses, it will be about who has the edge in the running game.
Badger Spotlight: Jonathan Taylor. Taylor eclipsed 5000 yards rushing for his career in the loss last week to Illinois, but the Badger offense runs (no pun intended) through Taylor. He leads the Big Ten in rushing yards by 10 yards. and he has 19 total touchdowns (15 rushing, 4 receiving).
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 41. The last time these two teams played was in the 2017 Big Ten Championship game. Johnathan Taylor was just a freshman, and Wisconsin came into Indianapolis undefeated. Ohio State won the game 27-21, and held Taylor to only 41 yards on the ground. The Buckeyes will need to find similar success if it wants to limit the Wisconsin offense.
Prediction: Even without Wisconsin’s loss to Illinois, this game us going to impact the Big Ten and College Football Playoff race. Ohio State has decided every game this year by halftime, and have score points against some of the toughest defenses in the country. Wisconsin is going to try to keep the ball in the hands of Johnathan Taylor, who is looking to have a much better game than the last time these two teams met in the Big Ten Championship game in 2017. If Ohio State can limit Taylor and force pressure on Coan to make plays with his arm, I think this helps outs the defense in keeping the Badgers off the field, and coupled with a strong running game from the Buckeyes, this one will be close for a while, before the Buckeyes pull away and head into their second bye week undefeated.