1. B5Q: So Braxton Miller's starting, huh? How does a Miller-led Buckeyes offense match up against the Badgers' defense?
Eric: Well, a Miller-led Buckeye offense will be much the same as last year, but with less running, more passing and faster players. We may see a few snaps where Miller has to knock off the rust and looks a tiny bit uneven, but I still expect the Buckeyes to try to stretch the field as much as possible. No doubt they will have Chris Borland spying Miller, and he is a great athlete, so they have to try to find mismatches for the other players in space. Expect lots of read-option plays with counter and trap blocking, and expect passes to quick, shifty guys (Hall, Wilson, et al.) to put them in a position to break big plays with a few power runs mixed in to keep the Badgers honest.
2. B5Q: Defensively, will Ohio State be able to shut down Melvin Gordon, James White & co.?
Eric: I don't know. Ohio State's defense has largely been untested so far on the ground. Cal's offense threw the ball 53 times, and with great success, although the game's outcome was never really in question. Ohio State has not faced a team with multiple players who can make things happen from the running back position, and they certainly have not faced a team that is looking to run a north-south attack. Bradley Roby says that the defense is looking forward to playing against a team which tries to run right at you, so we'll see. Curtis Grant, Ohio State's middle linebacker, will certainly be tested, as will the revamped defensive line.
3. B5Q: Outside of Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier, who I think most Badgers fans know about, which one player on each side of the ball will have the greatest impacts in Saturday's game?
Eric: I just mentioned Curtis Grant on the defensive side. He has to have a good game in order to stop the Badger running attack. If he doesn't make the right calls, and if he can't make the right reads on those Melvin Gordon fly sweeps, or if he gets fooled on play-action, the Buckeye D could have a long night. On the offensive side of the ball, Jordan Hall has been getting the majority of the snaps at running back, and should get a lot of touches on read-option, trap and dive plays out of multiple-receiver sets. He'll have to beat Chris Borland in space, and that matchup should be fun to watch.
4. B5Q: There's been plenty of rivalry we talk this week (thanks, Bret). Is there a consensus among Ohio State fans as to where Wisconsin ranks among the Buckeyes' most-hated rivals?
Eric: I think Wisconsin is a rivalry, but it is not quite on the level of a Penn State or obviously the big one (Michigan). I've seen more hate leveled towards Penn State in recent years, but they've had a recent drop-off in play while Wisconsin has, in Urban Meyer's own words, become the "kings" of the B1G. I think if you have to rank rivalries, Michigan would be 1, with a huge gap, followed by Penn State and Wisconsin at 2A and 2B interchangeably, depending on the sport/level of success at that given moment in time. The Badgers are definitely up there, though, starting with the Rob Reynolds craziness, the heartbreaking loss you all gave OSU in '08, Bielema and Urban's distaste for one another and the Hail Mary play in '11.
5. B5Q: Are Ohio State fans concerned at all about entering this game having played only cupcakes (minus Cal, which was a 52-34 OSU win anyway) thus far?
Eric: If Buckeye fans aren't taking this game seriously, that's on them. Rest assured that the Buckeye players are taking this seriously as a battle for the division crown. Of course there is concern -- Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl three straight years and is not a team to be taken lightly. Most fans that we talk to, and the guys on Columbus radio, definitely view this game as one of the toughest, if not THE toughest, game the Buckeyes will play all year.
6. B5Q: For Badgers fans making the trip to Columbus, how would you plan their night (destinations for eating, drinking and more drinking) the night before and then pre-game? Any chance UW fans will be greeted warmly?
Eric: Expect Wisconsin fans to be treated as friendly rivals for the most part. Only Michigan fans get the special treatment with booing, swearing and the like, and honestly, it's not really that bad. You'll get the occasional nut job but that can happen anywhere. Plus, as the night goes on, it's going to be harder and harder for the drunkest Buckeye frat bros or sidewalkers to tell one shade of red from another.
If you don't have tickets to the game, there are bars all up and down High Street on campus for your viewing pleasure. I recommend the Bier Stube if you are a dive bar person, as it will probably be the least crowded. If you're looking for something closer to the stadium but far away from High Street and regular everyday college students, Hampton's on King is a good place to watch as well on the south side of campus. If you're on the north side, try Ledo's. DO NOT GO TO VARSITY CLUB IF YOU WANT A BEER. You'll never get one.
For food, there are chains all up and down High Street, but if you're looking for a campus-like experience I recommend Apollo's Gyros. If you're staying off-campus and of a higher culinary brow, try Thurman's Cafe, Schmidt's Sausage Haus (on the south side of town), anywhere in the Brewery District on the southwest side (Columbus Brewing is the best) or Aladdin's Eatery in Grandview if you're in to Lebanese food. There are a ton of ethnic restaurants in the area as well due to a large Somalian and Ethiopian population if you like that. For burgers and pub food, you can try Eddie George's, but it's overpriced. Try the Cap City Bar & Grill/anywhere in the Brewery District if you're looking for something else.
7. B5Q: A two-pronged prediction request, if you will. Who wins and by what score this weekend, and does the winner of this game represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game?
Eric: I think Ohio State wins 41-28, and I think the winner does in fact go to the B1G championship game. The other teams in the division just aren't on the same level as these two. This should be a high-scoring affair; Melvin Gordon and James White are too good to keep down for too long, but so is Urban Meyer's offense. I expect Joel Stave to be good for a turnover as well, which could keep things interesting.
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- Week 5 Preview: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
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