Posted on November 28, 2017, by Travis Pulver
This is the game that Wisconsin fans have been waiting for. All season long, as their team continued to win games and climb up the AP and Coaches Polls, all they heard was that their team wasn’t worthy. Yeah, they Badgers were great at beating up teams they should beat. But they hadn’t played anyone of substance.
They hadn’t faced any real challenges—until now.
Ohio State is far from perfect, but they are a good, talented team with an excellent coaching staff. Unlike Wisconsin, they have faced some tough teams and beaten them. The win over then-No. 2 Penn State was one of the best games of the year, and they demolished then-No. 12 Michigan State. But the Buckeyes have one major flaw.
They are inconsistent, and not just on one side of the ball, but both.
A case could be made that the had not gelled yet and were not ready to play a team like Oklahoma when they did (Week Two, 31-16 loss). But they have no excuse for the loss to Iowa—and it just wasn’t like any old loss. They were embarrassed 55-24.
J.T. Barrett, who has never been a great passer, completed just 18 of 34 attempts that day for 208 yards and three touchdowns along with four interceptions. It’s not like Iowa’s pass defense is anything special (No. 52).
Iowa’s offense is not very good (No. 106 in yards/game an No. 69 in points/game). But, somehow, they ripped up the No. 8 defense in the country.
With Alabama and Miami losing last weekend, the CFB Playoff Committee has to include Wisconsin in the top four this week. To prove they belong, they need to beat Ohio State. If they don’t, the Committee may find a one-loss Alabama team more compelling than them.
Should Ohio State pull this one out and get a little help, there is an outside shot the Buckeyes could make it back into the playoff mix.
So—who’s going to win?
On paper, there is no way Wisconsin should be able to make this a competitive game, let alone win it. They simply don’t have the kind of offense that it takes to beat Ohio State. Alex Hornibrook has improved as a passer this season, but if the Buckeyes can take away the run game he is not good enough to win the game.
Take away the run game is exactly what the Buckeyes will try to do, but taking away Jonathan Taylor is something that is easier said than done. He hasn’t run for less than 132 yards a game for the last month. Had he gotten more than 12 carries against Illinois he probably could have extended that streak a little more.
But the Buckeyes have the No. 13 run defense in the country (112.8 yards/game). They’ve only allowed one running back to gain 100+ yards in a game this season (Iowa’s Akrum Wadley). So, it isn’t exactly going to be easy running for Taylor.
However, Wisconsin’s defense is not going to be easy for the Buckeyes to handle either. Statistically speaking, they are the No.1 unit in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and passing efficiency. When it comes to passing yards allowed and points allowed they are No.2.
If they can control the Ohio State offense, they will not need Hornibrook or Taylor to do too much.
Wisconsin’s defense destroyed the very same Iowa offense that made Ohio State look like a high school scout team. Based on that comparison, they should be able to handle the Buckeyes with ease. But comparisons like those rarely pan out.
Ohio State is expected to have J.T. Barrett behind center, but they might be better off with Dwayne Haskins. Barrett is a capable passer, but not a good one; he’s more of a run threat. But if the Badgers had to respect the run and the pass, that could give the Buckeyes the edge they need against a talented defense.
Ohio State is a six-point favorite and the logical choice in this game. But this one is ripe for an upset. Whoever wins will not win by much so take Wisconsin and the points.