Very few predicted Wisconsin to win against Ohio State this year. The No. 3 ranked Buckeyes handed the No. 13 Badgers their second (straight) loss of the year. The Badgers, now sporting a 6-2 record, struggled throughout the contest and now enter their second bye week looking for a reboot.
In this weekly installment, let’s rattle off three items that I think we learned about the Badgers after their game Saturday.
Chase Young is different
The Wisconsin offensive line is annually one of the more well respected units across the country. The big fellas were unable to muster enough push on the ground to help Jonathan Taylor find space in the running game. This has, unfortunately, been a trend for the group as of late.
In the past three games, Jonathan Taylor, one of the best running backs in program history, has only averaged three and half yards per attempt, a far cry from his regular average of over six and half yards per tote. Against Ohio State he averaged just over two and half per. Not great.
Chase Young is a very good football player.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) October 26, 2019
While the running game woes have been an issue, pass protection has been fairly strong this season.
That was until Saturday.
Chase Young, a top-five projected NFL draft pick, was too much on the edge. The junior defensive end was constantly in the backfield, and accounted for four sacks and two forced fumbles. The Wisconsin offense sputtered during the matchup and Young’s play was a major reason. Young now has 13.5 sacks on the year and five forced fumbles. He is an absolute force in the B1G and is one of the best players in the country.
I do not think Wisconsin had a great plan to contain the talented pass rusher, and that came back to bite them in the end.
Chase Young is the best defensive player in college football.— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 27, 2019
Let's try that again, Chase Young is the best PLAYER in college football. pic.twitter.com/U9hTyhyBV8
Ohio State is championship level good
While Wisconsin definitely struggled, especially on the offensive side of the ball, I think that this game was more indicative of Ohio State than Wisconsin.
Wisconsin was able to hang around with the Buckeyes for the first half, with the defense coming up with some big stops. The problem was Ohio State dominated the game in the second half.
After the blocked punt by Alexander Smith, Wisconsin was able to convert the short field into a touchdown and pull within three points. Ohio State proceeded to rattle off four consecutive touchdown drives to end the game, while Wisconsin fumbled twice in Buckeye territory on two of their remaining four drives and punted on the other two.
The nerve... Jump Around being played at the Horseshoe.... pic.twitter.com/cCDZLyZcNg— BOOcky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 26, 2019
Based on recruiting ratings, albeit a convoluted metric, Ohio State has their best team of all time. Ohio State has the highest blue chip ratio of any team in the nation with 81% of players ranked as four or five star recruits exiting high school. That talent differential played out on Saturday, as Ohio State outplayed Wisconsin across all areas of the game.
The Buckeyes are a team on a warpath, and Wisconsin appears to be a small speed bump on their way to potentially making the college football playoff and vying for a national championship. Ohio State has the talent to make a deep run this year.
Positivity! Special teams and pass rush
One of the bright spots for Wisconsin was the special teams. Punter Anthony Lotti struck the ball well. He averaged 43 yards per punt, and knocked three within the twenty. A large improvement for the senior.
Alexander Smith’s blocked punt was a huge play, something that has been lacking across the special teams for the past few seasons. At that juncture of the game Wisconsin vaulted back into striking distance due to the great field position.
For a unit that has struggled at times this year, Saturday was a definite improvement.
NOW THEY FEEL OUR WRATH!!!— BOOcky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 26, 2019
Hintze's kick sails through the back of the endzone for a touchback, to start the second half.
In terms of the Wisconsin pass rush, the Badgers did a great job of getting to Justin Fields. The Wisconsin defense had five sacks, and were close on a number of others. While the Badgers struggled to stop the run, the front seven showed out in passing situations.
In a game that exposed some obvious flaws, Wisconsin’s pass rush was still stellar and continues to prove it’s worth.
With Wisconsin now two games behind in the West division race, both the special teams and the pass rush will need to continue to stay strong as the Wisconsin offense aims to find a rhythm.
The bye week comes at a great time after back-to-back road losses as Wisconsin will need to win out in order to push for a spot in Indianapolis and a ten win season.