No. 6 Ohio State at Wisconsin
Saturday, 3:30pm ABC
Line: Wisconsin -3
It's pretty safe to say this game is a full fledged rivalry at this point and rightfully so after the last few seasons. First Wisconsin spoiled a possible national championship season for the Buckeyes in 2010 with a late October victory and then last season the Buckeyes handed Wisconsin their 2nd straight hail-mary loss in as many games. Could we be in store for something similar this week?
Well, Ohio State comes in undefeated yet ineligible for the Big Ten Championship, while the Badgers have clinched their spot in the Championship Game thanks to a butt kicking of Indiana last week so you do the math. It's clear that both teams are fired up and ready to prove they deserve where they are at in the standings and rankings. As we've seen in the past, anything is possible when these two bitter divisional rivals take the field at Camp Randall this Saturday.
For Ohio State to win: The game plan is twofold for the Buckeyes – first they need to control the edge on offense in order to get Braxton Miller going in the running game. He's a good passer this season, but it's been made possible because he can get to the edge as a rusher. However, Wisconsin has been very good against the run this season, ranking 1st in the conference against the run and it's been their ability to not allow teams to get off the edge that's been really huge for them. If OSU's offensive line and wide receivers can control and give Miller and Co. lanes on the edge they'll be successful.
Secondly the Buckeyes will need to force Wisconsin to become a passing team with Curt Phillips behind center for just his 2nd collegiate start. The passing game matchup could be a huge advantage for OSU simply because Phillips has only attempted 7 passes all season long and Indiana's defense isn't exactly on par with the Buckeyes, so forcing Phillips to be a pocket passer plays well for them.
For Wisconsin to win: Wisconsin needs to rely on the run game like always, but it won't be as easy as it was last week when they ran for 564 yards as a team and nearly had 3 players go for 100 or more yards. However, if you're Wisconsin you can't go away from what's worked for you simply because it's the strength of the other teams defense. That's a recipe for disaster to say the least.
Give Montee Ball the rock and let him score 2TD's to break the FBS career TD record on Senior Day. If Ball is breaking that record the Badgers are winning this football game because that means most likely the offensive line is controlling one of, if not the best front four in the Big Ten.
Key Player, Ohio State: Etienne Sabino is expected back and in the starting lineup as a linebacker for the Buckeyes. Add him to John Simon and Ryan Shazier and you've got a heck of a group. However, coming off of injury he's likely to be a bit rusty and therefore he's a key player because Wisconsin's run game is so potent. If he's struggling it could be a long day against the road grading Wisconsin offensive line. If he's successful the Badgers are in trouble.
Key Player, Wisconsin: This one is simple, it's quarterback Curt Phillips. He was impressive in his debut behind center last week, but this isn't Indiana he's facing this week. Phillips showed great command behind center, the ability to get out and run (52 yard scamper), and also showed his teammates respond to him being the leader on the field. That's all well and good, but doing it against the Buckeyes is a whole different animal. If he stays poised and doesn't get rattled Wisconsin has a great chance to win this one.
Key Stat: 10-0 – That's Wisconsin's record in home games in the month of November since 2005. Camp Randall is a huge advantage for the Badgers and they simply don't get blown out or lose in November very often. Expect a raucous crowd for Senior Day as well.