It's difficult enough to win at the Horseshoe at full strength, but after suffering multiple injuries in the Purdue game, Wisconsin may be heading into Columbus a few men down.
Tight end Jacob Pederson (knee), defensive back Peniel Jean (leg) and center Dallas Lewallen (ankle) all suffered injuries against the Boilermakers, and linebacker Brendan Kelly (hamstring) and wide receivers Kenzel Doe (unspecified) and Jeff Duckworth (hamstring) were all ruled out for the game as well.
Head coach Gary Andersen told the media yesterday he's still unsure about the injury status of most of those players, but should have a pretty good idea who'll be game-ready in the next 48 hours.
These injuries couldn't come at a worse time for UW. It helps having a bye week following Ohio State, but as it's been stated many times before, this game will likely decide the Leaders Division champion and whether Wisconsin will have the opportunity to win its fourth straight Big Ten title.
Now, most of the backups filled in very adequately, but that was against an inferior Purdue opponent. Cornerback Jakarrie Washington and linebacker Vince Biegel may play decent ball against the Boilermakers but I'd be holding my breath if they see significant time against the Buckeyes.
Speaking of Biegel, the Kelly injury may be one of the most critical injuries -- outside of Pedersen. The telecasters for last Saturday's game said the coaching staff had told them they were expecting a breakout game for Kelly, and I believe them. As I rewatched the game Monday afternoon, I noticed at least three or four instances with Biegel firing off the line of scrimmage from the weak side with a great opportunity to make a play in backfield, but he failed to do so. In his defense, he did an awesome job getting off the ball and playing downhill, but he needs to make those plays and hold the edge better. Just think what could happen in those instances against a potent Braxton Miller offense.
All of these injuries are concerning. Dan Voltz filled in well at center on Saturday, but it's still unnerving to for him to make his first start on such a big stage. The Badgers' secondary was exposed against quarterback Taylor Kelly and Arizona State's passing attack, so they can ill afford to lose Jean at cornerback.
And obviously, the Pedersen one is probably the most crucial injury. Wisconsin can't just line up in two- or three-tight end sets and pound the ball with ease, as it did versus Purdue. The Badgers will need to be less predictable to keep the Buckeye defense on its heels a bit, so the outcome could come down to Joel Stave's ability to stretch the field -- at least a few times -- and that task is all the more difficult if Pedersen isn't a go.
At this point, the injury status of these players is all speculation, but they have the potential to really hinder Wisconsin in its biggest game of the season.
More from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
- Wisconsin offense review: Badgers get back on track vs. Purdue
- USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll: Wisconsin opens preseason ranked No. 3
- Wisconsin football notebook: Ohio State game could carry heavy Big Ten implications
- Prospectivetorium: We need to talk about Joel Stave
- The Monday After: Purdue vs. Wisconsin
- Kielbasa Kings Episode 12: Purdue vs. Wisconsin recap; Big Ten media days with Andy Johnson