Can Braxton Miller perform magic in Camp Randall Stadium if needed? - Patrick Smith
Ohio State defeated Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium during the 2008 and 2002 seasons. Will Ohio State be able to duplicate those past Buckeye efforts?
A couple days ago, I wrote about how Ohio State has struggled against Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium. Even the oddsmakers give Wisconsin a slight benefit of the doubt going into Saturday's contest. The reality is Ohio State has defeated Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, and some of those games were in comparable circumstances to this year's game. Think back to the games against Wisconsin in 2008, and the national championship season of 2002.
In 2008, Ohio State traveled to Wisconsin with a true freshman quarterback in Terrelle Pryor. While Pryor was a tremendous athlete, Pryor's comprehension of the full Ohio State offense was limited. Ohio State would need to rely upon the powerful running game, led by Chris "Beanie" Wells.
True to form, Ohio State and Wisconsin battled throughout most of the game. Although Ohio State took a quick 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Wisconsin tied Ohio State in the second. Going into the half, Wisconsin was able to extend the lead to 10-7.
Ohio State, true to "Tresselball", tied the game with a field goal in the third quarter. Wisconsin took the lead late in the fourth quarter, 17-13, behind a P.J. Hill two yard touchdown run.
And with time running down, in a hostile environment, Ohio State called upon its immensely talented quarterback to put the team on his back. Sound familiar to this year?
(Yes, I know how many Ohio State fans despise Terrelle Pryor. I am merely making the comparison to how instrumental Pryor was to that Ohio State offense, and how important Braxton Miller is to this year's Ohio State's offense.)
In 2002, Ohio State entered the game at Wisconsin undefeated (sound familiar again?), needing the victory to remain in the hunt for the national championship. Ohio State entered the game with a 7-0 record, having won some games despite some less than impressive performances (again - familiar much?). The contest at Wisconsin was considered to be Ohio State's first true road test of the 2002 season.
Ohio State battled Wisconsin closely throughout this contest, relying upon freshman running back sensation Maurice Clarett. Clarett sustained a shoulder stinger near the end of the game, but helped Ohio State control the clock by rushing for 133 yards on 30 carries.
And here is where I find the ultimate comparison - Ohio State needed to rely upon a player who had switched from offense to defense in midseason to help secure the victory.
Sophomore wide receiver Chris Gamble began playing more and more cornerback in the latter portion of the 2002 season. Gamble was able to make a key interception of Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi late in the fourth quarter, to help Ohio State hold on for its 19-14 victory over the Badgers.
For years, Wisconsin has relied upon its traditionally stout running game. While Ohio State's defensive line unit should pose a strong competition for Wisconsin's offensive line, it will also be imperative that Ohio State's linebackers be able to slow down Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. Zach Boren, a transplanted fullback to linebacker, will be essential in this effort.
Will senior linebacker Zach Boren be able to replicate the feats and accomplishments of another transplanted Buckeye defender such as Chris Gamble? Will Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller be able to perform in the clutch if needed against Wisconsin? Ohio State fans can draw upon these positive memories in Camp Randall Stadium for inspiration and guidance - we shall see if Zach Boren and Braxton Miller do the same.