As difficult as it might be to navigate to the nonstop media releases of information around the Michigan sign stealing investigation, there will be football played this weekend for the Buckeyes in Madison, Wisconsin, and Ohio State is looking to keep focused to preserve a undefeated season before the first official College Football Playoff rankings are released on Halloween.
Ohio State is still riding high off of their win against Penn State last week, and the don’t want Camp Randell to be their Den of Horrors on their path to win their first Big Ten title since 2020. The Buckeyes and Badgers will play at night on NBC, and the conditions are setting up to be a chilly and potentially raining evening, a combination that would limit the Buckeyes who are already still building up their offense that has been below their own set bar in the previous season under Ryan Day.
For Wisconsin, a win would help right their season after a loss to Iowa, and will need to get their season turned around if they want to have a chance to play in Indianapolis on December 2nd.
For Ohio State, a win would put them in the mix of 8-0 teams, and have two of the best wins in the country with wins against Penn State and Notre Dame, which should hopefully put them in the top 4 for the initial rankings. They are still writing their story
for the season, and this game is the next chapter.
Know the Opponent:
Head Coach: Luke Fickell (1st season)
2023 Record: 5-2
Location: Madison, WI
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview
Ohio State enters the game as the 3rd ranked team in the country, and one of nine remaining unbeaten teams going into week 9 of the college football season. On the offensive side of the ball, they have been good, but not elite as we are used to seeing under Ryan Day, but the team has been building each and every week, along with handling key injuries at running back and wide receiver.
Defensively, they have been as stout as hoped for, and this years team feels closer to the 2002 version of the Buckeyes than it does compared to the 2022. I think most Buckeye fans would be happy if the outcome ended the same for this years team with the 2002 group. Nationally, this group ranks 3rd in scoring defense, 18th in rushing defense, 6th in passing defense, and 4th in total defense. They are giving up 260 yards of total offense a game, and have played 2 top 10 teams in their first 7 games.
Kyle McCord will start at quarterback for his 9th total collegiate start. He has passed for 1937 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 1 interception, and a completion rate of 64%. Devin Brown was injured last week on an attempted touchdown run, but will be out for a few weeks. Ryan Day mentioned he will look at both freshman Lincoln Kienholz and transfer quarterback Tristan Gebbia in the red zone to try and keep that wrinkle on offense, but a week to get ready might be a tall task for both backup quarterbacks.
The Buckeyes reported earlier this week that TreVeyon Henderson will be back for this game after missing the previous 3 games. Despite his absence, he still leads the team with 285 rushing yards on 44 carries, and 5 touchdowns. If he is fully healthy, his explosiveness can help the struggling rushing game. Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams should also be in the lineup, both playing last week against Penn State. Trayanum moved up to 2nd on the team with 60 carries for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. Miyan added to his total to bring his season numbers to 49 carries for 158 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“Masarati” Marv, dubbed by Gus Johnson, leads the team in catches and yards with 42 receptions for 766 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has had the most yardage than anyone in the country in the last three games. Cade Stover is second on the team with 27 catches for 429 yards and 3 touchdowns. Emeka Egbuka has been rumored to be cleared to play, after missing the last two weeks, and has 303 yards on 22 catches with 3 touchdowns. The trio were just announced this week on the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Luke Fickell has been asked all week about the importance of this game, especially due to all of the years he was with the Buckeyes as both a player, and a coach. The Columbus, Ohio native was very direct in his response to those questions in regards to the preparation of the game.
“It’s not about me. I know we have some guys on our staff, myself included, that have some obvious history there, whether they went to school there or played there. But that’s not what it’s about,” Fickell said this week. “It’s about the players, it’s about our team, it’s about our program. It’s about the journey that we’re on and the process that we’re in.
“When the ball’s kicked off, that’ll have absolutely no effect on anything that happens on that field. And so we try to just focus on the things that are going to have the greatest effect on Saturday night.”
For Wisconsin, this season has probably not had the start they were hoping for, especially with losses to Washington State and a key loss to Iowa, but they still only have 1 loss in conference, and with Iowa losing last week to Minnesota, the Badgers are hoping to get a win this week against their toughest remaining opponent, and will have Indiana, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Minnesota left on the schedule.
To win though, they will not have starting quearterback Tanner Mordecai on the field due to an injury on his throwing hand. In his place, the Badgers will look to Braedyn Locke, who has passed for 370 yards this season, and has thrown 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Braelon Allen once again is the star of the Badgers, and on the season he has 120 carries for 704 yards and 8 touchdowns. Behind him is Chez Mellusi who has 51 carries for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns. Losing Tanner Mordecai was a hit to their run game, as he was the third leading rusher and had 161 yards and 4 touchdowns himself on the ground.
The secondary for Ohio State will have to cover top receiver Will Pauling, who has 37 catches for 398 yards and 1 touchdown. Chimere Dike also has proven to be a threat, averaging 17.1 yards a catch, and has 282 yards on 16 catches with a touchdown.
Marvin Harrison Jr. It was clear last week that the offense went through the future first round draft pick, and the Buckeye camp is starting their Heisman push for the Junior wide receiver. If last week was his entry point, the next 5 weeks are going to be his stat building to not only try and earn the top receiver award, but the nations best player.
Braelon Allen. The star running back is thre biggest strength of the Wisconsin offense, and has been the focal point of Phil Longo’s offensive scheme. Allen ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing yards and touchdowns, and has forced 41 missed tackles.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game
4, 3 and 2. The Buckeyes last loss to Wisconsin in 2010, the only non-vacated record from that season due to the Tattoo-gate, but since then have played in Columbus 4 times, 3 times in Indianapolis, and the other 2 in Madison, which both where 7 point wins for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes make their first trip to Camp Randell since 2016, and have had the most difficult road trips their this century. This year though, Buckeye alum Luke Fickell is lead the Badgers in his first year, and will be without his starting quarterback Tanner Mordecai. The Buckeyes need to focus on winning this game, and not what is happening in Ann Arbor this week with the sign stealing investigation. The Buckeyes have all of their goals ahead of them, and they can not let this be an emotional game. I think Ryan Day will make sure they are ready, and gets a win on the road, it might be a little closer because of the weather and could slow the pass game. Ohio State
Ohio State 28 – Wisconsin 7
Photo Credit – Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports