MADISON, Wis. — Ohio State’s 30-23 overtime win over Wisconsin will look better in the standings than it did on the field.
The No. 2 Buckeyes had to dig deep to hold off the No. 8 Badgers, who gave the visitors all they could handle in front of a hostile Camp Randall Stadium crowd. The offense sputtered and the defense gave up big chunks of yardage, but the Buckeyes somehow steeled themselves and pulled off a comeback that might make their fans forget about some of the problems that arose.
Although the strength of opponent is factored into this analysis, Ohio State certainly had its share of shortcomings against the Badgers. Here’s how Ohio State graded out, on a scale of one star to five:
Offense (3 stars)
For the second consecutive week, Ohio State recorded its lowest point total of the season. In this case, the Buckeyes needed overtime just to get to 30 points after being held to six in the first half and 23 in regulation. Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw a horrible interception in the end zone on the Buckeyes’ first drive of the second half, but he bounced back and ultimately finished 17 of 29 with an interception, along with his touchdown to Noah Brown in overtime.
Barrett got nearly as many carries as Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel combined, which is never ideal. Samuel (12 carries) and Weber (11 carries) finished with 46 yards apiece, while Barrett (21 carries) amassed 92 yards.
Defense (3.5 stars)
There was plenty of bending but very few breaks for the Buckeyes. Wisconsin moved the ball well between the 20s but really struggled in the red zone. Allowing 300 yards in the first half to a unit that didn’t enter the game in the top 100 in total offense is pretty inexcusable, but the Buckeyes looked like a different group after the break. That was especially true in the third quarter, when Wisconsin never got anything going and went o for 2 on third down.
Special teams (4 stars)
Punter Cameron Johnston was solid again, booting it four times for a 53.8-yard average and a long of 70 yards. Kicker Tyler Durbin went 3 for 3 on field goals, and his 40-yarder was Ohio State’s first field goal of 40 yards or longer since Nov. 1, 2014. Four of Durbin’s six kickoffs were touchbacks, which is something that Meyer generally wants to avoid.
Coaching (3.5 stars)
The defensive staff had some problems stopping an offense that had been mediocre for much of the season, and the Buckeyes’ aggressiveness cost them on some play-action and misdirection plays. Ohio State looked much better as a whole in the second half, but first-quarter struggles (the Buckeyes were down 10-3 after 15 minutes) continue to plague the team. Penalties were a little better, as Ohio State committed just four, but two of those were on its overtime possession.
Overall (4 stars)
Ohio State was far from perfect, but it got the job done against the No. 8 team in the country on the road. The Buckeyes weren’t good enough for a 5-star performance, obviously. But what they accomplished in a difficult environment against a worthy adversary also deserves some appreciation. Ohio State is 6-0, and any fan of the program would have taken that at the start of the season knowing the Buckeyes were slated to face Oklahoma and Wisconsin on the road by this point.
During one of the biggest tests of the year, the whole was greater than the sum of Ohio State’s parts, and the overall grade reflects that.