In late October these two teams squared off in Columbus the first time, and they’ll meet again Saturday night in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title. For Badger fans, the hope is that this game will go better than the first time which ended up being a 38-7 game despite a tight first 2.5 quarters.
Against a team like Ohio State, you have to play a perfect 60 minutes of football, and even that might not get it done. Still, I have no doubt Wisconsin will come out and give it all they got as they try to pull off a massive upset over the no. 1 team in the land.
Here’s what the Badgers need to do to make that happen.
Get after Justin Fields
The last time these two teams met, Wisconsin had its hands full with the combo of J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields in the running game. It’s a duo that has been lethal all season in the read option game, which is a wrinkle that has given Jim Leonhard’s defense fits all season.
However, there is some news that may play to the Badgers in this football game. For the third time, Ohio State comes into this game with an injury at the quarterback position in the Big Ten Championship.
In 2014, Braxton Miller was injured and replaced by Cardale Jones. In 2017, JT Barrett was battling a knee injury, and this year Justin Fields comes in off of a sprained MCL in last week’s game. There’s no doubt that Fields will play and be effective in this game, but he will be wearing a bigger brace and the pain will likely limit his mobility.
Just knowing that on the defensive side of the football could help Wisconsin defenders when making decisions in the read option game by keying and crashing on the other half of the duo in Dobbins. It also becomes important in the pass rush game, as Wisconsin was able to get Fields for five sacks the first time around, but he was also able to escape a collapsing pocket a few times.
As a defense, you can’t bank on something like this, but you also cant deny that it’s a storyline coming into this football game. However, even if he can’t beat you with his feet, his arm is still pretty good—see below.
Last week the offensive execution was the best it has been in 2019. The play calling was great, the wrinkles were timely and the Wisconsin pulled away from Minnesota in the second half. In order to knock off a team like this you’ll have to do much of the same and then some. Last time these two met the game plan was to run the football and control the clock with Jonathan Taylor. Taylor had 20 carries, while Jack Coan had just 17 passing attempts.
On paper it looks about equal, but if you watched the game it was clear that the Badgers were only throwing when they really had to. That can’t happen this week. Mixing it up and getting other players involved in the offensive game plan will make or break the Badgers chances. In Columbus, punter Anthony Lotti had more touches than the entire receiving core.
If you want to have a chance to move the football, guys like Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis will need a lot more touches in this game. Coan has been effective when given opportunities, and I think the Badgers will need to continue to give him his shots in this game. In turn, that also opens up things for Taylor, which should help spark a run game that really struggled against the Buckeyes last time.
Keep being aggressive
The Badgers come into this game as 17 point underdogs. It’s the biggest spread for a Championship game outside of Clemson-Virginia. So, really, what does this team have to lose? Nobody is picking or expecting them to win, so why not bust out every trick or wrinkle you have in the book. There’s really no better time to use it than this game.
Over the course of 2019 we’ve seen a very aggressive Paul Chryst and a very conservative Paul Chryst. The aggressive side has worked a lot, while the conservative side has usually come back to bite them. In this game, I expect the Badgers to continue with the aggressive to give themselves a shot. Punts and field goals aren’t going to win this game, so when the opportunity calls, take your shots. It’s going to take a few plays like that to pull off this upset, but really I don’t see why you wouldn’t put the pedal to the medal in this game.
Sure Wisconsin can try to keep it close to back into a Rose Bowl, or they can be aggressive and let the chips fall where they may. I fully expect the Badgers to do the latter, and I cannot wait to see it. Shock the world boys.
Oh, one more key, don’t try to block Chase Young 1-on-1 with Jake Ferguson. Thanks!