“This is Ohio State’s toughest challenge yet”
I’m pretty sure I said this before Ohio State played Nebraska. And Michigan State. And Northwestern. They won all three by a combined score of 134-20.
It’s hard to remember a stretch where Ohio State’s been this dominant. They’ve kicked three top-25 defenses into the sun. They’re the top-ranked defense in the country, given up eight points per game, and have the most terrifying player in college football. This is all with a first-time head coach replacing one of the greatest to ever do it, and a Heisman-contending quarterback whose limited playing experience basically still makes him a freshman. So what’s it going to take for someone to actually challenge them?
Wisconsin (probably) fits the bill. They usually play Ohio State tough (except that one time), have arguably the best running back in the country, and a defense that’s just as nasty. The counterpoint is that they lost to Illinois last week, diminishing a lot of the hype that was building to this game ever since they ran over Michigan a month ago. Still, they’re always a threat, and the last thing I’m going to do is underestimate a team whose philosophy is running the ball behind 2000 pounds of midwest beef.
I think there’s a decent chance we see Ohio State finally play a game into the fourth quarter tomorrow. Or, they may just win by 30-plus again and I’ll have to wait until the Penn State game to act like this team has a challenged. I don’t know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Anyway, these five things are on my mind as Ohio State takes on Wisconsin.
Can we please promise to find a new way preview these teams playing outside of “BIG-TIME FORMER BLUE CHIPS VERSUS SCRAPPY TWO-STARS WHO AREN’T AFRAID?” I get it, Wisconsin punches above their weight. They identify players that fit their system. Ohio State signs mostly four and five-stars. Rinse and repeat. I swear I’m not taking shots at anyone in particular —writers on both sides do it— but this matchup is usually pretty good, and deserves more than trotting out the same recruiting conversation every time they play. /Rant
Visual representation of what Ohio State’s doing to teams in the second quarter this season:
I’m not sure exactly how this keeps happening —They’ve outscored opponents 158-20— but we’ve officially moved past “wow, that’s a neat stat,” into the “Wow, this just might be the most dominant trait of a dominant team” phase when it comes to Ohio State and second quarters.
Here’s the entirety of Wisconsin’s playbook tomorrow:
And here’s what they’d do if they were allowed to:
Take a look at Chris Olave’s stats this season:
Those numbers don’t exactly scream “superstar,” but you and I know different. Despite not leading in catches or yards, Olave continues to prove that his performance at the end of 2018 was no fluke, and that he’s the most complete receiver on the team.
He leads in receiving touchdowns, has a blocked punt, run blocks well, and seems like he’s Justin Fields’ number one option when they really need a play through the air. This offense isn’t built for someone to have 9 catches for 140 yards, but if one of the receivers has a big day tomorrow, my bet is on No. 17.
Is it fair to say that playing Wisconsin has produced the most epic moments of any Ohio State series outside of Michigan since 2000? A rough timeline:
- 2002: Chris Gamble’s interception
- 2003: Jim Reynolds goes full Katsuyori Shibata on Jim Sorgi
- 2008: Terrelle Pryor’s game-winner
- 2009: Ohio State gets outgained 368-184, wins by 18 anyway
- 2010: JJ Watt ruins everything
- 2011: Braxton to Devin
- 2012: Ryan Shazier stuffs Montee Ball, overtime stand I
2013: Jared Abbrederis absolutely pantses Bradley Roby
- 2014: Literally the whole game
- 2016: Overtime stand II
- 2017: Ohio State ends Wisconsin’s undefeated season, wins Big Ten title, costs itself playoff spot by not just playing Dwayne Haskins
Pretty good, right? What this series lacks in even win distribution, it more than makes up for with good games and moments. Here’s hoping we get a couple more to add to the list tomorrow.