After an incredible rebounding win over New Mexico State (0-4) 66-0 following an embarrassing home loss to Washington State (3-0) 17-14 the Badgers hope to carry momentum into Columbus, Ohio versus the #3 Buckeyes.
In an attempt to preview what to expect on Saturday, let’s take a look at how Ohio State has looked so far this season.
● Win vs. Notre Dame
● Win vs. Arkansas State
● Win vs. Toledo
Let’s start with their Quarterback C.J. Stroud. This guy is just phenomenal to watch. It’s crucial the Badgers find ways to either confuse him or bait him into wrong reads. At the very least Wisconsin needs to slow him down through his progressions by forcing him to take his second or third reads. So far in 2022 Stroud has thrown for 941 yards (13th in CFB), has a completion percentage of 72.9 (8th highest in CFB), completed 11 TDs through the air (3-way tie for 1st in CFB), and a passer rating of 208.6 (2nd highest in CFB) through three matchups. He’s going to be a problem. He’s able to pick apart defenses and he rarely makes an incorrect read as he’s thrown 0 interceptions this season.
CJ Stroud with a dot to Cade Stover pic.twitter.com/QNlmcSuvMF— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) September 17, 2022
Stroud has a plethora of targets, but two targets have racked up most of those yards and touchdown numbers this season in Marvin Harrison Jr, yes that’s Marvin Harrison’s kid, and Emeka Egbuka. Both are averaging over 15 yards a reception. Harrison Jr has five TD’s, 342 yards, on 18 receptions, averaging 19.0 a catch. Egbuka has three TD’s with 324 yards on 20 receptions, averaging 16.2 yards a catch. The Badgers will need to find ways to shut these two down. A tall order considering Harrison's height (6’4) and Edbuka’s speed combined with impressive footwork while running routes. These guys can create space for Stroud to sling the ball into.
While their running game isn’t as good as their passing game it’s pretty darn impressive. They have two backs averaging over six yards a carry. They also don’t fumble. If they need to the Buckeyes have the talent in the trenches and in the backfield to use their thunder and lightning combination of Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson to attempt to break down the Badger's defense. It’s going to be a battle upfront.
While the Badgers outrank the Buckeyes in defensive points allowed, overall defensive yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and sacks this Ohio State defense is nothing to shrug at. These guys have the talent to create big problems for Braelon Allen up front in the trenches and create schemes to confuse Graham Mertz into making mistakes. This is still a top 25 defense that the Badgers will have to battle against and try to create space between in order to allow Allen to run free and give Mertz opportunities in the pocket. I expect to see everything but the kitchen sink thrown at the Badgers offense.
Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg is a UNIT. He’s 6’4 with 239 pounds of lean steel that can get to the ball quickly and shut things down. Eichenberg leads the team with 19 tackles, 13 solo, and six assists, including two sacks. He’s a leader on this team too and commands the defense with earned respect. He’s able to read offensive adjustments quickly and make things difficult for the badgers to audible on. Wisconsin can greatly increase their opportunities to execute if they can confuse Eichenberg in the box and defensive lineman Mike Hall Jr up front.
If there is one weakness, it’s been in the secondary, as Ohio State has given up some explosive plays in their first few weeks. The Buckeye secondary has been banged up, so that could be a spot Wisconsin looks to try and pick on through the air.
I suppose it won’t shock you to learn that Ohio State is a fairly good team. They have better recruits, coaches, financial support, and commercial brand recognition. But Wisconsin does have them beat in pressure. What do I mean by this? There’s far less on the line for the Badgers in this game. That doesn’t mean that the players won’t have the tenacious fight of an actual Badger burning in them when they show up to ball in the Horseshoe but the Badgers have far less pressure on them.
Sure the Badgers are still playing for a shot at the Big Ten Title game but the Buckeyes have CFB playoff expectations and hope to live up to them. If it comes down to the final plays Ohio State, not Wisconsin, is going to be sweating more before the last whistle blows. I think the Badgers can take advantage of this. I believe they have the talent to bring this game down to the final quarter or series. And if that does happen I have faith they’ll rise to the occasion. But it’s the Buckeyes. The Badgers will probably hang around into the fourth quarter before Ohio State runs away with it. Either way ON! WISCONSIN!