Saturday night, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes -- simply put and probably understated-- dominated from their first offensive series on, landing a 59-0 victory over the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers.
Many predicted a close matchup after Ohio State's loss of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett to a fractured ankle the week before. Insert sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones, and the many who expected a substantial drop-off were proven wrong. The Buckeyes decimated the Badgers on both sides of the ball, and left Wisconsin players, coaches and fans in shock and dismay. The last time the Badgers lost by 50 points? A 54-0 beat down by Michigan in 1979.
To discuss the outcome of this game, we welcome four of our writers to the roundtable this Sunday morning:
- Louis Bien (@LouisBien)
- Luke Mueller (@Luke_Mueller24)
- Maxwell Brusky (@LibertyBowlMax)
- Zach Wingrove (@ZachWingrove)
The Good: Did anything go well?
Louis: Nothing did. There was no moment where I could say "hey, at least we this went our way." Everything was terrible, from a football standpoint. From a broader standpoint -- like, a really broad standpoint -- everything is as fine as it ever was.
Max: No. There really is nothing more to say about it than that. I kept thinking of Texas over Colorado in ‘05 -- or even No. 7 Arizona (a better team than the Badgers this year) getting blown out on Friday night, but at least those teams scored once. The blocked field goal stopped the bleeding for a few minutes, true. As people who write and talk about this stuff for other people, our job is pretty easy when looking at this one game -- analysis is not really necessary: nothing at all went well in this game. Makes you really wonder how bad the rest of the Big Ten West really is -- or just how good Ohio State is right now.
Zach: Let's get something straight, there was absolutely nothing that went well for Wisconsin against Ohio State. If I had to pick out one highlight from tonight's game, I would say the blocked field goal with 13:55 left in the fourth quarter was a positive -- although after watching it a second time it looks more like Ohio State's kicker kicked it straight into the Badgers' d-line. But regardless, it was one of the few times all night when Wisconsin was able to keep Ohio State from scoring points.
Luke: I agree with everyone else. Nothing went right for the Badgers. There wasn't much Wisconsin can take away from this game and feel good about. The team rushed for under 100 yards, They again got off to a slow start (if you can even say they ever started), and most importantly the Badgers didn't score a damn point! It's pretty hard to win football games when you don't score points. Now I am getting ahead of myself. To get back to the original question. The good is that the game is over, but this one is forever burned in fans' brains.
The Bad: How did things go so wrong?
Louis: Wisconsin got demolished against both both fronts, and that made it impossible to compete. On Wisconsin's second and third drives of the game they were able to get a few first downs, and that suggested that they might be able to create some offensive momentum. But the hint that might Wisconsin might be able to keep up with Ohio State was dashed by Joel Stave's first interception.
My hope entering this game was that Wisconsin would be able to win the battle at the first level at a 50/50 clip, so that Melvin Gordon would be able to out maneuver Ohio State's undisciplined second level to reel off big runs. Wisconsin didn't win that battle nearly as often as I thought they might. Ohio State's defense line proved it was as good as any unit in the country, and its offensive line proved it was physically superior to Wisconsin's defensive front.
I just...I don't know how to answer this question. I want to pin this loss on one thing, and I think the battle up front is the most obvious. But Wisconsin's secondary also proved over matched. So did Wisconsin's receivers. So did Stave.
The only person I can't blame anything on is Melvin Gordon. As good as he was in 12 games, I refuse to believe he had anything to do with this abysmal game. He doesn't deserve this.
I'm struggling to figure out what I make of this team. I'm struggling hard. If Wisconsin was this bad in its biggest test, is it reasonable to say it was ever any good?
Max: Every single weakness of this team -- all of which we knew -- was laid bare. On national television. In a conference title game. After a seven-game win streak. The line of scrimmage was never established on either side of the ball (and we thought, reasonably, that these Badgers were tough and physical). There was no pass rush and even into the last minutes of the game, Gordon and Clement (few carries) literally had nowhere to go -- I don't think a healthy Dan Voltz would have made a bit of difference. Quarterback play was as bad it's ever been - and there seemed to be open receivers, amazingly, but with Stave, not surprisingly. UW's secondary was shredded, all of them.
I said last night that we'd all think of different ways to say the coaching staff will go back to the drawing board, but I don't think that's really it. Beginning in the first quarter, UW seemed to have its energy sucked out. When that happened, the massive disparity in talent between a top team and UW made itself obvious. The staff will have the team ready for the bowl game and beyond (Alabama to open 2015??), but everyone, including them, now knows how much work there is to do on the recruiting trail to get this team to where it can still look respectable in games where Ohio State can literally do no wrong -- winning when that happens? Looks like a long time off right now.
Zach: I'll try to keep this as short as possible, but as we all know this section could be several thousand words if we wanted it to be. Basically our defense couldn't tackle, they got no pressure on the quarterback, they left receivers wide open underneath and they just always looked a step slower than the Buckeyes throughout the game. I'll leave it that.
On offense, Stave attempted 43 passes, which is never something to be excited about. It's even more concerning that he completed only 39 percent of those passes, but that can be attributed to the play calling--because I've been saying all year that Andy Ludwig should be calling more screen passes and short underneath patterns rather than the low percentage deep balls that we saw way too often tonight (although to Ludwig's defense, it's hard to call a lot of conservative passing patterns when you're down by 40 points for most of the second half). The Buckeyes' run defense was completely prepared for Gordon and they absolutely smothered him all game -- his longest run was only 13 yards (a season low). I thought this game was the first time all year where the Badgers' offense looked completely helpless, and that can be credited to Stave's errant passes/bad decision making in the pocket and predictable play-calling (how many times were we planning on running it up the middle with Gordon?)
Luke: Do you have a few hours to let me walk you through what went wrong? Let's start with the coaches. The game plan was bad. And clearly wasn't working early in the game. Melvin was bottled up and the Badgers were down 14-0 early. Adjustments weren't made fast enough, or at all. Aranda looked to put pressure on Jones, but it just wasn't getting there.
On offense, Stave couldn't hit the broadside of a barn door. He went 17-43. That's not good! You don't win games that way. Granted, they needed to throw because they were down so much, but it baffles me that a quarterback at this level can go through a game and complete less than 40 percent of his passes. 3 interceptions is also inexplicable, but that didn't factor into the reason the Badgers lost. I could complain about Melvin's stats, but the guy had nothing to work with all game. The offensive line was blown off the ball time and time again. Ohio State had no problem bottling Gordon up. He did fumble in a bad area, so that is something to be critical of. This year's offensive line unit isn't what it has been in the past, but this is still WISCONSIN. You know the school known for its offensive line?! They should be performing better than what they are. And as a unit, to not put up any points is disgraceful in a game like that.
On defense, nothing went right. Jones had all day to sit in the pocket and throw. The unit was torched for over 300 yards rushing and 557 total. They forced no turnovers and had holes the size of the Grand Canyon in their defense. Ohio State was able to pick them apart like they were playing a middle school football team. Embarrassing to say the least.
B5Q Game Balls: Anyone deserve them?
Louis: From Wisconsin? No one does. From Ohio State, Cardale Jones played well, I guess throw him the ball. Well, Ezekiel Elliott played well, too. And Joey Bosa. And Doran Grant. And...shit.
Max: None for UW. I can't give them to the other team. If I could, Louis identified the recipients. Who would have thought - in a million years - that this game would result in not a single, solitary UW player deserving of a game ball. Historically bad performance in ALL facets.
I have to add that Ohio State "deserves" to be in the playoff. If they play in those game(s) like they did tonight, they will win it all. They are light years ahead of anyone in their conference. This game had to be one of the best they've played in a few years, which is really saying something. Last night I said they were on fire; my brother said, "Fire?!? How about molten tungsten?!?!". That's about right.
Zach: It has to be Cardale Jones from Ohio State, who looked like a seasoned veteran in his first collegiate start. Also give one to the Buckeyes' entire defense, who held Wisconsin to a season low in total rushing yards and shut the Badgers out for the first time since 1997. The Badgers don't really deserve a game ball, but if I had to I would give mine to Alex Erickson for catching seven passes last night and finishing the season as the team's leading receiver this season (51 receptions for 734 yards and three touchdowns).
Luke: Cardale gets mine. He "ain't come to play school," but he sure as hell came to play some big boy football. Chris Ash would get one as well. The former Wisconsin assistant was the only Big Ten coordinator who found the winning formula for bottling Melvin up. Maybe he called down to Western Illinois to see how game planned, because we all know that he was virtually nonexistent against the Leathernecks (That is still baffling).
Pending the bowl game, was this a successful season?
Louis: No. This was not a successful season.
The reason is this game. Maybe it's not fair to judge a season on one game, but man, looking at the schedule, how can we not?
This was Wisconsin's biggest test, and it flunked. Wins against Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota were nice, sure. Wisconsin certainly improved gradually over the course of the season. But the fact that the Badgers were so out classed in the season finale suggests that they were always a paper tiger.
We knew the offensive line struggled to pass block. We knew the front seven was shallow and undersized. We knew the secondary couldn't maintain coverage for long. Ohio State just happened to be the first team Wisconsin faced that could exploit all of these weaknesses simultaneously. At no point was I surprised by how Wisconsin was playing, but I was horrified to see its worst tendencies in every facet on display.
I'm struggling to express myself right now. I don't know how long it's going to take for the shock to wear off. I'm a little scared about what the long term implications of this game might be -- that Wisconsin may never recruit well enough to contend against Ohio State's ilk any time within the next few dozen years, and that even if we did get athletes in the system that we may never obtain a coordinator capable of taking advantage of their capability.
I want to erase my memory of this game so, so badly. This feels awful.
Max: I thought this wasn't Nebraska until last night. A 10-3 season with one of the losses in the league title is absolutely a success. The trophy case remained full to capacity with one added for the Big Ten West title (not even shared). They were even favored last night!
The success, of course, is massively qualified, as UW was shown last night just how far is has to go to get to the next level. I strongly doubt a game like this will happen again for another 20-30 years (the Badgers just do not get blown out, right?), but now that this happened, success will be elusive in the minds of many fans. Andersen and his staff went from "well, maybe these guys are ok," to continuing to have something to prove.
Zach: Despite the atrocious outing tonight, I think this season for Wisconsin has to be a considered a success. From a wins/losses standard, I think 10-3 was right about where everyone expected them to be-especially with how easy the schedule was this year after the LSU game.
Looking back on this year, the team made some big steps that will help them in the long run. The defense rebounded better than we could have ever imagined it to after losing the entire front seven from last year, Erickson developed into a legitimate receiving threat in the passing game, Ludwig and Andersen got better at utilizing a two-quarterback system and the offensive line was solid for most of the year. Of course, we can't forget about Melvin Gordon, who was masterful this year. Although it looks like he is going to fall short of the Heisman, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him walk away with the Doak Walker and the Maxwell Awards this season.
It's hard to call a season unsuccessful when your team wins the Big Ten West and one of your players could potentially win two of the most prestigious awards in college football. The team developed nicely this year and I think Andersen has successfully came into Madison and managed to keep the Badgers near the top of the Big Ten, which is a nice relief.
Luke: I would say yes and no. They won all of their rivalry games, which is a huge success. They faced adversity and responded great to it all season. They got to double digit wins, which is never easy. Finally, they made it to the championship game. All of those are successes.
It is not successful because if you look at all of the team's big games, they lost them. National television against LSU and Ohio State -- they blew a lead against LSU, and then never got off the bus to play Ohio State. Gary Andersen, in my mind, is a good football coach, but he has yet to prove that he can win the big game, which is concerning. He is doing a great job recruiting and the players love to compete for him, but until he wins a big time game, I can't fully buy in. Losing on a national stage twice this year makes it unsuccessful.
If the Badgers can win a bowl game, I will deem it a success because it feels like a century ago that Wisconsin won a bowl.