COLUMBUS, Ohio — Move over, Oklahoma. Ohio State has a new biggest game of the season to date.
This one comes as a bit of a surprise, given that Wisconsin was scheduled to face LSU, Michigan State and Michigan before the Buckeyes came to town. But the Badgers got through that stretch with just one loss, and even that 14-7 defeat at the hands of Michigan was completely forgivable.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer always has kind words for opponents, but his assessment of No. 8 Wisconsin was more effusive than usual.
“Outstanding. The typical Wisconsin,” he said. “I think it goes back to Coach (Barry) Alvarez and what he’s built up there. I think Coach (Paul) Chryst — I don’t know him very well, but I can push play (on game film) and see it’s one of the best coached teams in the United States of America. Very good players. They have their niche. Average size is 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-8 on the offensive line, 315 pounds. I think that’s what it was two years ago, and it’s just consistent. They have an excellent running back, very efficient pass game.
“And then on defense, they’re outstanding. They’re what they’ve been. It’s amazing that they’ve had coach transition. They’ve changed defensive coordinators and it’s a very similar defense. It’s Wisconsin’s defense. I like that. I like the fact that when we change coordinators on offense, it’s still Ohio State’s offense. Wisconsin, you’ve got to give the leadership a lot of credit. One of the best teams in America.”
So how does Wisconsin ultimately stack up compared to Ohio State? Here’s our look at what to expect when the teams square off at 8 p.m. EST.
When Ohio State has the ball
Ohio State ranks among the best teams in the country in most offensive categories, but here’s the catch: Through five games, the Buckeyes haven’t faced a defense anywhere close to as good as Wisconsin’s. The Badgers are fourth in scoring defense and 11th in total defense, and those numbers should trouble Ohio State fans one week after the team’s most disappointing offensive showing of the season.
When Wisconsin has the ball
How Wisconsin ever scored on Michigan will forever be one of life’s mysteries, and I suspect we’ll say the same when the Badgers reach the end zone against the Buckeyes. When it comes down to it, the Wisconsin offense is just not a very good unit. The Badgers average 26.0 points per game (87th) and 360.2 yards per game (106th). The last thing they want to see is Ohio State, which ranks No. 2 with a scoring defense that’s allowed just 10.8 points per game.
Edge: Ohio State
For the third straight week, the Buckeyes are facing a horrendous punting team. The Badgers are 116th nationally in net punting, while Ohio State is second. Wisconsin will also be without its excellent kicker Rafael Gaglianone, who is out for the rest of the season with a back injury.
Edge: Ohio State
Once again, Meyer is the better coach and Ohio State has the better staff. Since it’s important to not just say that every week, I’ll also add that Meyer is 19-0 in true road games at Ohio State. Not bad.
Edge: Ohio State
Wisconsin has one of the 10 best resumes in the country right now, but it’s hard to view it as one of the 10 best teams given its dysfunctional offense. Our picks seem to reflect that.
Ben Axelrod’s prediction: Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 14
Jeremy Birmingham’s prediction: Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 10
Ryan Ginn’s prediction: Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 10
Share your own score predictions in the comments below!