It’s been some time, but we’re back with another roundtable, as the Wisconsin Badgers dropped a tough game to the Ohio State Buckeyes in a 24-10 loss where they remained competitive until the last quarter.
There were several takeaways from the loss, including thoughts on the coaching staff, a “moral” victory, and more.
For this roundtable, I combined with our football writer Scary Alvarez once again to answer some critical questions.
Q: Any moral victory from the Badgers loss?
Rohan: I’m not usually one for moral victories, and still am not, but I have to acknowledge that the Badgers played hard on Saturday. If we’re being frank, there’s a clear talent difference between the the Buckeyes and the Badgers, but Wisconsin was firmly in this game until the fourth quarter.
I’d primarily give credit to the defense for not breaking, even when allowing explosive plays, against a tough opponent, but there were a number of mistakes that cost the Badgers in this one, be it penalties, turnovers, or whatever.
Scary: I’m not sure I’d call anything that happens in a very difficult loss a Moral Victory.
Every kid on the Badgers believed that they could beat Ohio State, so that locker room was understandably distraught after not being able to seal the deal Saturday night. A lot of people are chalking this loss up to things like Braelon Allen’s injury and officiating, but the reality is simply that 2023 Wisconsin’s margin for error against an elite team like the Buckeyes is razor thin, so it’s hardly shocking that the more talented team won the game.
If Wisconsin had entered halftime with 14 points instead of 3, the game probably comes down to the last drive.
Q: Biggest positives/negatives from the game?
Rohan: The biggest positive has to be the defense for the way they’ve played, not only against Ohio State, but over the last few weeks.
Coming into this one, I was particularly worried that the defense wasn’t going to be able to contain Ohio State, hence why I predicted a comfortable victory for the Buckeyes.
But, the Badgers did a great job in limiting points, getting to the quarterback on a number of occasions, forcing turnovers, and keeping the offense in the game until the final minutes.
Credit goes to defensive coordinator Mike Tressel for the way he called that game, consistently putting his players in favorable situations to make plays, which turned to be the case on Saturday.
Tressel hasn’t run his “Dollar” package as much during Big Ten play, but has adjusted well to his personnel, and put together a few good gameplans in a row now for the Badgers.
There were a solid amount of negatives for the Badgers, from the punting of Atticus Bertrams to the offensive inefficiencies and more.
The defense put the offense in places to succeed, but the Badgers were unable to capitalize on certain opportunities. Albeit, it’s against a tough Ohio State defense, but there were turnovers and good field position on a punt return, which didn’t translate to enough scoring.
I do think there are valid questions about the talent in Wisconsin’s receiver room, as Will Pauling has been the main player who has stepped up.
Standout transfer Bryson Green hasn’t been targeted enough, which head coach Luke Fickell acknowledged, while there’s been too much inconsistency with drops and separation.
Scary: I’d say the most positive aspects of the game were the Defense’s ability to create timely turnovers, the way that the Badgers never panicked at any point in the game against a really good team, the continued level-headed play of our freshman QB, and how the coaches had the team ready to execute coming out of the locker room at halftime.
As far as negatives, I hate to single out any particular player, but the punting game difference between Ohio State and Wisconsin was glaring, extending an issue we also saw vs Iowa. The Badgers have talent, but still need at least a push on the field position battle to beat good teams.
Another negative was Wisconsin’s inability to parlay Ohio State turnovers into points. Ending up with one point per turnover isn’t ever going to get it done vs the #3 team in college football.
Finally, the injury to Braelon Allen bodes poorly for future games against four very beatable opponents. Someone like Cade Yacamelli is simply going to have to step up and help Jackson Acker in order to allow this offense to move. It’s nowhere near ready to sling it around 40 times a game to make up for a lack of a running game. Losing Chimere Dike is also rough, given his experience and role in the return game. Hopefully Bryson Green can continue to emerge.
Q: Grades for the Coaching Staff vs. OSU?
Rohan: Starting with the offense, I’ll probably settle at a C for offensive coordinator Phil Longo. I thought he went away from the run too early, even with the Braelon Allen fumbles, placing even more pressure on quarterback Braedyn Locke, which led to a stagnant offense. Additionally, the redzone offense continues to be an issue. The one positive-looking play came under center and would’ve been a touchdown with a better throw from Braedyn Locke. There needs to be more variety going under center in those situations, and it’s costing the Badgers touchdowns in the redzone. Longo has a lot of moving pieces, and execution hasn’t been pristine, but it was an up-and-down game for the offensive coordinator.
Defensively, Mike Tressel earns an A. I thought it was a well-called game from him, like I said, placing his players in a good situation. The Badgers were in the game because of their defense, so credit goes to Tressel for making that happen.
For head coach Luke Fickell, I’ll provide him with a C+. I thought there was a mishandling of the Badgers’ final drive of the first half, which Fickell acknowledged, and certain times where Wisconsin could’ve been more aggressive. But, it was clear postgame that this loss stung to Fickell, who took accountability.
Scary: I’ll go Offense, Defense, and Overall here to simplify things.
Offense: I’ll say a B- because I’m grading on a very generous curve given how elite Ohio State’s defense is. There were some nice moments, but the unit didn’t take advantage of the turnovers it was gifted by the Defense. The good news is that they will not be playing any units as good as Ohio State’s the rest of the way, but all of their opponents will provide a test.
The Defense deserves an A-. Holding the Buckeyes to 24 points while generating three turnovers more than held up their end of the bargain. This was the most impressive job by Tressel’s unit all season.
Overall: This game was a B for the Badgers, and a B will NEVER be enough to steal a game from Ohio State. Leaving out potential games in Indy, the next time these teams play will be in 2025, again in Madison, and the talent levels should be closer then. So I’m already curious to see how that one goes.