"For Jones, there is something familiar about the unusual circumstance facing him this week."
-Daniel Uthman, USA Today Sports
There is no bigger story for the Buckeyes heading into tomorrow's tilt against Wisconsin than the need for untested quarterback Cardale Jones to have the game of his life. For Jones, the chance to prove himself has been a long time coming. That was the case in high school, when he waited until his junior year for a chance to take the reins as a starter, and it has been the case at Ohio State, where he has spent a good deal of time watching from the sidelines. When Braxton Miller got hurt, Jones was the putative next man up. And then J.T. Barrett happened, and the waiting started anew for Jones.
But despite many fans' anxieties about whether or not the redshirt sophomore has what it takes to get the job done, those closest to Cardale Jones have no doubts as to his abilities on the field. Not least among them is Buckeye coach Urban Meyer. Meyer has repeatedly praised him this season for his improved focus both on the field and in the classroom, and has gone out of his way to talk about how smart and mentally tough Jones is.
That might come as a surprise, given that Jones is mostly known for the now-infamous tweet that has become college football internet's most beaten dead horse. Still, the people who know best -- Meyer, teammate Michael Bennett, J.T. Barrett himself -- all believe strongly in Jones' ability to get it done on the conference's biggest stage. Stay tuned.
"Gordon will be in the spotlight not only because he leads the nation in rushing...but also because he makes up the lion's share of the Wisconsin offense."
-Tim May, The Dispatch
When destroyer of worlds Melvin Gordon takes the field against Ohio State on Saturday, it will mark the third time this season that the Buckeyes have faced a top-ten running back in 2014. Gordon leads the nation in rushing, but Ohio State has also been forced to deal with Indiana's Tevin Coleman (No. 2) and Minnesota's David Cobb (No. 8) this season. A kind way to put it is that the Buckeyes have not had a lot of success containing the other teams' leading rushers this year. Is there any hope for Ohio State to limit the best of them all?
The glimmer of hope stems from last year's contest between the Buckeyes and Badgers, in which Ohio State limited Gordon to just 74 yards on the ground. Of course, they also allowed Jared Abbrederis to rack up over 200 receiving yards in that one, so it's not as though it was a shutdown performance. Senior linebacker Joshua Perry is realistic about the force that awaits the Buckeyes on Saturday: "We'll have our work cut out for us, but we're going to prepare really hard."
Perry might be one of Ohio State's best chances to contain Gordon to a more reasonable total on Saturday -- say, under 200 yards. Against Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Perry looked like the Buckeyes' best defender, making tackles in space and keeping excellent field awareness to limit Coleman when the plays went to Perry's side of the defense.
"The massive advantage the Badgers have on the ground is the reason to expect Wisconsin to win and cover the spread."
-Wall Street Journal Sports
In this week's college football prediction column, the WSJ makes a pretty convincing case for the Badgers to upend the Buckeyes in tomorrow's Big Ten Championship game. As mentioned above, the Buckeyes have plenty of woes in the run defense department, ranking just 55th nationally against the run. Wisconsin, unsurprisingly, is the best rushing team in the country. According to the WSJ's "Predictalator," the Badgers would have been the slight favorite even with J.T. Barrett suiting up for Ohio State -- the machine like's Wisconsin's steadily improving passing game and dominant rushing attack better than Ohio State's high-variance performances across the season.
It's important to remember that this is just a simulation, and in the tired words of every advanced-metrics hatin' football coach, there's a reason the game's not played on paper. The last time the Predictalator was covered in this column, in fact, was in advance of Ohio State's tilt against a favored Michigan State team. You may recall what happened on that night -- something about J.T. Barrett's coming-out party, a massive away win against a higher-ranked opponent, things of that nature... This game should scare the bejeezus out of every Buckeye fan with a pulse, but there's nothing else to be done except watch. One bit of hopeful news is that Wisconsin's starting center might not be able to play on Saturday thanks to an ankle injury, and even if he does get the start, won't be playing at anywhere near 100%.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- The Short North's Milk Bar, which apparently isn't what it sounds like, is closing this month.
- Aaron Rodgers...rocking a Columbus Crew shirt from Homage??
- A Washington man (not like a Michigan Man) is accused of swapping a neighbor's furniture for his own while the neighbor was away on vacation.
- Oh, hey, just a great horned owl swimming his way across Lake Michigan.
- The Orion Spacecraft's first test mission was a success.