“But who's going to take a swing pass in the flat and turn an 8-yard gain into a 50-yard gain? Who's going to wiggle past one tackler and run away from another? More likely, a Buckeye... The game could swing on who pops a big play in the midst of the grind.”
While the young No. 2 Ohio State offense is averaging over 53 points per game this season, they are doing it with expert efficiency, rather than the explosive firepower that an Urban Meyer offense is known for.
According to Football Study Hall, the Buckeyes rank 94th in Offensive Explosiveness, but second in Offensive Efficiency. Currently, the Buckeyes have the 45th most plays over 10 yards in college football, but drop to 49th, 73rd, 100th, 110th as the stats increase by 10 yards. So, despite Heisman contenders quarterback J.T. Barrett and H-Back Curtis Samuel, the yards are coming in small bunches for the Buckeyes, as opposed to large chunks.
However, that does not mean that the team is incapable of exploding on occasion. Running back Mike Weber has appeared to be inches away from breaking more than a handful of runs this season, and Samuel and Dontre Wilson are always capable of doing the same. If Barrett is able to bounce back after a poor performance against Indiana, wide receivers Noah Brown and Parris Campbell are more than capable of creating big plays.
As you begin to look at this weekend’s primetime matchup between Ohio State and No. 8 Wisconsin, it becomes clear that this year’s Badgers squad is every bit built in the program’s familiar mold. Despite being 4-1, the Badgers are averaging just 15.6 points per game, scoring over 20 only against Michigan State.
Their Offensiveness Explosiveness is 115th nationally and their Efficiency is 89th. The Badgers sit at 90th in terms of 10+ yard plays and 112th in 20+.
So, if Saturday night brings rain and wind to Madison, as it is currently forecasted to, it seems pretty clear which team will have the advantage in both explosiveness and efficiency, which could just spell the difference between a win and a loss.
“Although we don't know what the College Football Playoff Committee thinks until the first ranking comes out later this season, it's a safe bet the Badgers remain firmly in the discussion.”
In 2014, Ohio State benefited from the new College Football Playoff system to turn a one-loss season into a national championship. That journey was aided by wins over quality opponents like Navy, Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin bolstering their strength of schedule.
After this Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes, Wisconsin’s schedule is light on quality competition, with No. 10 Nebraska being the only ranked team remaining. Therefore, if Wisconsin were to beat No. 2 Ohio State, they would then need to rely on the strength of their early season schedule to compensate for a narrow 14-7 loss to No. 4 Michigan.
Saturday’s matchup with the Buckeyes will be the Badgers’ fourth game against teams ranked in the Top-10 at the time that they played, following wins over No. 5 LSU and No. 8 MSU. However, the fortunes of both teams have tumbled since they squared off with Bucky, as both are now unranked, and LSU fired head coach Les Miles.
So, even if No. 8 Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) does win as a home-underdog this weekend, they would still likely need help from their early season foes to prop up their weaker second-half schedule.
“Ohio State players have to figure the Wisconsin Badgers have extra motivation going into a Saturday night matchup of top-10 teams. After all, the last time they met, Ohio State strutted away with a 59-0 victory in the 2014 Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.”
Heading into the season finale against Michigan in 2014, Buckeye fans had begun to allow themselves to dream of what might be after the heart-breaking Week Two loss to Virginia Tech. Ohio State had gone undefeated since, with just their arch-rival standing between them and the Big Ten title game.
When those dastardly Wolverines broke Barrett’s ankle in the fourth quarter, no one knew exactly what to expect from Cardale Jones, who had only appeared in mop-up duty to that point. However, the following week in Indianapolis reassured a nervous Buckeye Nation as Jones threw for 257 yards as Ohio State went on to a historic victory en route to the first College Football Playoff Championship.
While it has become cliché around Columbus, the “Next Man Up” mantra is just a byproduct of another of Meyer’s favorite sayings:
So, while the Badgers should rightly use the 59-0 defeat as extra motivation for this week’s Top-10 matchup, the message from that game, and the subsequent postseason run, will be fresh in the Buckeyes’ minds as well.