Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE
- Andy Johnson (+214): Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 21
- Phil Mitten (+214): Ohio State 26, Wisconsin 23
- Mike Fiammetta (+216): Wisconsin 28, Ohio State 24
- Jake Harris (+225): Ohio State 21, Wisconsin 13
- Andrew Rosin (+255): Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 27
- Louis Bien: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 17
- John Daly: Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 13
- Jack Moore: Ohio State 20, Wisconsin 17
- Nathan Palm: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 23
- Nick Korger: Wisconsin 35, Ohio State 20
The road to this day has been long and winding.
For nine players who, on Senior Day, play their final home game at Camp Randall Stadium today. Especially Montee Ball, who never imagined a return for one last college try would have as many ups and downs as the past year has. But also for No. 6 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten), which used a disappointing 2011-12 season, NCAA sanctions, postseason ineligibility and massive coaching turnover to fuel an undefeated run to the top of the Big Ten Conference once again. With a win, the Buckeyes clinch the Big Ten Leaders Division title.
And yet, the Buckeyes come to town as an underdog.
Such is the mystique that Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2) has earned over the last decade. The impenetrable fortress that is Camp Randall has already been toppled by Michigan State. But the legend lives on, because it's O-H-I-O is Wisconsin's sights this time. And we know what that means.
Head coach Urban Meyer brings an uber-talented club to Madison, led by fringe Heisman candidate Braxton Miller at quarterback. Miller leads the nation's eighth-best rushing attack (256.1 yds/gm) with 1,166 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Joining him is running back Carlos Hyde (737 yards, 13 TDs), who'd be one of the most potent backs in the league if not overshadowed by Miller.
Only a sophomore, Miller is twice the quarterback Terrelle Pryor ever was, and already has one astonishing Badger pelt on his resume from last year's 33-29 win in Columbus. He's also passed for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, against only six interceptions. Big plays -- those of 50, 60 or even 70-plus yards -- happen in the blink of an eye with Miller.
Chasing Miller will be even tougher for Wisconsin if junior linebacker Chris Borland cannot go for the Badgers. Borland is still struggling with a hamstring injury suffered last week against Indiana. Even if Borland plays, he won't be near 100 percent healthy. Marcus Trotter is prepared to start in Borland's place.
The quarterback situation is so much more uncertain for Wisconsin, where senior Curt Phillips will get his second career start. Phillips remains untested as a passer after only throwing seven passes in UW's romp over Indiana last week. The upside of that is Ohio State's defense has hardly any film on Phillips. The downside, though, is obviously.
With Wisconsin's top offensive line fully intact for the second week in a row, head coach Bret Bielema is expecting the running game to pave the way for a potential record-breaking performance from senior Montee Ball. With 77 all-purpose career touchdowns, Ball stands one behind Travis Prentice and the NCAA record. He's also two rushing touchdowns behind Prentice's career rushing TD mark (73).
It will take more than Ball and James White running to beat the Buckeyes, however. Though the two combined for 359 yards rushing and five touchdowns against the Hoosiers, the duo faces big defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins today. Hankins projects as a top five pick in next spring's NFL draft, creating havoc from the inside along with lineman John Simon. They have five sacks to pace Ohio State.
Sophomore Ryan Shazier (98 tackles) cleans up the middle, as well as registering 13 tackles-for-losses on the year.
One area where the Badger defense might be superior to the Buckeyes is in the secondary. Led by the senior trio of Devin Smith, Shelton Johnson, and Marcus Cromartie, Wisconsin is 34th in the nation against the pass at 206 yards allowed per game. Ohio State allows nearly 260 yards per game, ranking 100th.
Can Wisconsin take advantage? Jared Abbrederis will continue to receive the majority of the defensive attention. The junior wideout has been held scoreless and to just 11 receptions over the previous four contests. Someone from the Jacob Pedersen, Jordan Fredrick, Chase Hammond, Kevin Duckworth, Kenzel Doe mishmash has to step up to allow Abbrederis breathing room.
On the other side, Devin Smith's evil twin Devin Smith is Ohio State's big play target. Smith has averaged 21.4 yards per reception in addition to scoring six times. Junior Corey "Philly" Brown has emerged as a valuable possession receiver for Miller and the Buckeyes, leading the team with 48 catches.
Third down conversions will be key as the Buckeyes convert 45 percent of the time, compared to 35 percent by the Badgers. However, Wisconsin has been particularly stout on third downs all year, allowing only a 31 percent success rate.
Wisconsin seeks a signature win to cap a potential third-straight run to a Big Ten championship, while Ohio State seeks a magical, albeit tarnished, unbeaten season. The Badgers will be hyped, the bad blood between Meyer and Bielema fueling the best performances from the coaching staff on both sides.
But in the end it comes down to execution. And Wisconsin has nine big reasons on Senior Day -- Ball, Ricky Wagner and Robert Burge on the line, Cromartie, Johnson, Smith, Mike Taylor ... even Brendan Kelly and Curt Phillips -- to execute better.
Who has the edge?
Offense: Ohio State
Special Teams: Ohio State
Coaching: Ohio State