The Big 10 conference schedule kicks off with a bang as the 23rd ranked Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) travel to Columbus, OH this Saturday night (8:00pm ET) for a nationally televised meeting with the conference favorites: the 4th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0). Wisconsin routed Purdue last week at home by a score of 41-10 in their Big 10 opener, bouncing back from their controversial loss at Arizona State by a count of 32-30 in week 3. Ohio State rolled at home last week over an over-matched Florida A&M team 76-0. The Buckeyes have yet to be tested this season with easy wins over Buffalo (40-20) in week 1, San Diego State (42-7) in week 2 and Cal (52-34) in week 3.
After rushing for 147 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in Saturday’s 41-10 win over Purdue, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon leads the nation in rushing (156 yards per game), and possesses a 11.8 YPC average. The Badgers starting running back James White has run for 145 yards on 16 carries and is currently the nation’s active career rushing leader with 3,013 yards. In last season’s meeting, a 21-14 OSU victory in overtime, the Badger defense was able to keep OSU QB Braxton Miller in check holding him to just 98 passing yards and 48 rushing yards. They will need a similar effort in order to have chance to pull off the upset here. This season the secondary has allowed 167 YPG passing (2nd in the Big 10) and zero passing TDs through the first 4 games, while allowing just 10.1 PPG as a team.
The Buckeyes, winners of 16 straight games, begin their Big Ten title quest against the three-time defending league champs. Wisconsin’s D will have to keep pace with Ohio State’s explosive offense and QB Braxton Miller who had over 3,000 yards of total offense last season to set the school record. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is “90 percent confident” Miller will play in this weekend’s Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, and that confidence should reach 100 percent by Saturday, the coach said at his weekly press conference. Miller has missed two straight games after injuring his knee against San Diego State in Week 2; Miller threw for 15 touchdowns and rushed for another 13 in leading Ohio State to an undefeated season last year on his way to Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Wisconsin Badgers +7
@Ohio State Buckeyes -7
Over 55 (-110)
Under 55 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State Pick
Ohio State’s 13th-ranked rushing defense awaits the Badgers two-pronged rushing attack this weekend. The Badgers were limited to just 3.7 YPC in last season’s meeting with All-American Montee Ball carrying the rock, and they are likely to grind out yards slowly against an athletic Buckeye defense with their run-heavy attack featuring running backs Melvin Gordon and James White.
The secondary is the area of concern for the Wisconsin defense, they have 3 new starters from the unit that performed so well last season and they have allowed 352 yards against the one quality passing team they have faced this season. They have 2 cornerbacks (T.J. Reynard a nickel back and starting corner Peniel Jean) battling injuries, which does not bode well for their chances against the Buckeyes. That being said, the line looks to be a good one and it is difficult to justify taking either side with two teams that always seem to play very competitive games. The Badgers will reply on the backfield tandem of Gordon and White, who have over 550 all-purpose yards this season, rather than put the game in the hands of QB Joel Stave, who had a mediocre game (50% completion percentage) in his only real test of the season against ASU. Wisconsin is the only team that has shown the ability to slow down Miller, which may necessitate a greater reliance on the running game for OSU. The result should be a slower-paced and low scoring affair. The call here is to take the under in what should be a physical and competitive Big 10 game.