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Early Analysis: Wisconsin at Ohio State

No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 4 Ohio State (4-0)

Saturday, 8:00 p.m., ABC

Line: Ohio State -7.5

Last weekend in Tuscaloosa we had a head coach take on a former assistant when Nick Saban welcomed former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and Colorado State in to Bryant-Denny Stadium. This weekend in The Horseshoe, Urban Meyer will match wits with former defensive line coach Gary Andersen, who brings Wisconsin in to Columbus hoping to end the nation's longest winning streak. The Buckeyes have yet to suffer a loss under Meyer, but Wisconsin may be the best challenge Ohio State has faced yet.

The stakes will be high in this one of course. Not only is Ohio State looking to remain in the BCS Championship hunt, but this will be a match-up of the top two teams in the Big Ten Leaders Division. With Penn State ineligible, Purdue behind the eight-ball and Indiana and Illinois looking OK but far from great, the winner this weekend in Columbus will move forward with the upper hand in the division.

For Wisconsin to Win: Ohio State will be welcoming back Braxton Miller to their offense (more on him in a bit), so it would seem logical that after sitting out a few weeks that Wisconsin will have to focus on bringing plenty of pressure on him and get his feet moving. Of course, Miller is fully capable of doing some damage with his feet but Wisconsin will hope that there is some rust that needs to be knocked off the cleats. This can be a problem for the Badgers though, as Wisconsin ranks 84th with five sacks through four games entering this weekend. that matches how many sacks Ohio State has allowed a sack over the same number of games as well.

But Wisconsin is not Florida A&M or Buffalo. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Ohio State is not UMass or Tennessee Tech either.

For Ohio State to Win: Ohio State's emphasis this weekend will be on slowing down the Wisconsin running game. Montee Ball may no longer be suiting up with a motion "W" on his helmet, but Wisconsin enters the weekend with the nation's third best rushing offense, averaging 349.75 yards per game and with 15 rushing touchdowns. Melvin Gordon leads the nation in rushing with 624 yards and is tied for second in the nation in rushing touchdowns with seven (Ohio State's Jordan Hall and Penn State's Zach Zwinak lead the nation with eight touchdowns, Boise State's Jay Ajayi has seven). The Badgers will attack the run, so Ohio State will have to limit the production they can pick up on the ground. The Buckeyes have been one of the better teams against the run on first and second downs this season. Wisconsin has averaged 8.50 rushing yards per attempt on first down and 7.12 rushing yards on second down.

Key Player, Wisconsin: Wisconsin's passing numbers are not great, but the Badgers have one of the top receivers in the Big Ten. Jared Abbrederis will be the top target in the passing game once again this weekend in Columbus. Abbrederis has averaged 91.3 yards per game and has three touchdowns this season. He is also averaging 15.87 yards per reception, which puts him down on the list of Big Ten leaders but helps illustrate how consistent he is in Wisconsin's offense as the conference's second leading receiver (Penn State's Allen Robinson). If Ohio State succeeds in slowing down the Badger ground game, look for Abbrederis to be the guy who Wisconsin uses to pick up on offense.

Key Player, Ohio State: Do we really need to over think this one? Quarterback Braxton Miller's return to the starting lineup for the Buckeyes will clearly be under a microscope considering how well Kenny Guiton has played in his absence under center. Miller has been cleared to play and probably could have been used last week against Florida A&M. Because the outcome of the FAMU game was never going to be in doubt, it made sense for Urban Meyer to hold out Miller one more week in hopes of having him more rested for Ohio State's Big Ten opener at home, against the biggest threat in the division.

Key Stat: Wisconsin has not won a game in Columbus since 2004, but they have been closing the gap in the outcomes. Ohio State won the 2007 game by 21 points, the 2009 game by 18 points and the 2011 game by just four points. Ohio State has won 16 straight games. The last time Ohio State lost in Columbus was November 19, 2011 (Penn State won 20-14).

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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