This game could very well be a preview of what’s to come at the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis in December.
Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) enters the game under a bit of scrutiny. The Badgers had been one of the most consistent and complete teams in the country until a surprise loss at Illinois, 24-23, last week. Now, Wisconsin will try to bounce back against the toughest opponent on their schedule this season. The Badgers have one of the nation’s best rushing attacks, led by a strong offensive line and a Heisman Trophy candidate in junior running back Jonathan Taylor. But Wisconsin has proven it can do more than just run the ball this season. Junior quarterback Jack Coan is second in the country in completion percentage and has thrown nine touchdowns to just two interceptions this season.
The Badgers defense still ranks among the countries best despite the loss last weekend. Wisconsin is first nationally in points against, yards allowed per game, rushing defense, passing defense and red zone defense. Led by senior linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun, the Badgers have already surpassed their sack total from 2018 (19) through seven games this season (27). The Badgers have a young, but athletic, secondary, including junior safety Eric Burrell and freshman safety Reggie Pearson, who are among the team’s leading tacklers.
Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) has arguably been the most complete team in college football this season. Sophomore transfer quarterback Justin Fields has been unstoppable through the air and on the ground, while junior running back J.K. Dobbins has been a monster in the running game. Fields has what seems like an endless supply of athletic pass catchers, including senior K.J. Hill, who is closing in on the all-time Buckeye record for career receptions. The Buckeyes were forced to replace three offensive linemen from their Rose Bowl Game team last year, but the line hasn’t lost a beat. Ohio State has surrendered just 14 sacks all season.
If the Badgers defense is statistically the best in the country, the Buckeyes should be ranked 1B. Ohio State is right behind Wisconsin in scoring defense and total defense, ranking second nationally. The Buckeyes defense is led by junior defensive end Chase Young, who could very well be the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Young leads the country in sacks with 9.5 through seven games and has tallied at least one sack in nine straight games. But the Buckeye defense is more than just one player. Ohio State’s 66.0 tackles-for-loss, tied for the most in the nation, have come by 23 different players.
Over the last 10 meetings between Wisconsin and Ohio State, six games have been decided by seven points or less. The Badgers have just one win in that time frame and haven’t won in Columbus since 2004. The Badgers key to victory will be controlling the clock and keeping the Buckeye offense off the field. The Buckeyes key is to get off to a fast start, as they’ve done all year. Ohio State has outscored opponents 231-31 in the first half this year.