After a handful of false starts in the first seven games of the 2019 college football season, the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes will — likely — face their first substantive challenge when the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers come to Columbus on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 12 noon ET in a game to be broadcast on FOX’s Big
Nude Noon Saturday.
To get you ready for the game, we talked to the Managing Editor of our Wisconsin sister site Bucky’s 5th Quarter Drew Hamm. I also answered Ohio State questions for B5Q as well. You can read that Q&A here.
LGHL: We all saw what happened against Illinois last week, but from a Wisconsin perspective, was it a product of turnovers, poor execution, the magic of Lovie Smith’s beard, or a combination of all of the above, or something else entirely?
Drew Hamm: We have, unfortunately, discussed this ad nauseam over at B5Q since Saturday afternoon. How could Wisconsin, the same team that handled Michigan and Michigan State, the team that had four shutouts in six games, the team with the Heisman Trophy caliber running back ... how could that team lose to Illinois?!? Well,,, there were a number of reasons.
Turnovers were definitely one of them! Jonathan Taylor lost his first fumble of the season and Jack Coan threw an interception (his second of the season) to give the Illini good field position to drive for the game-winning field goal. Related side note: Coan only throws picks against crappy teams from Illinois, so Ohio State is shit outta luck there.
Ok, back to the question! There was also baffling play-calling by Paul Chryst and the offensive staff that is to blame. There was a sequence where the Badgers, doing their typical “WE ARE WISCONSIN AND WE LET LARGE FULLBACKS SCORE SOMETIMES” thing, gave the ball to said fullback, twice in a row for no gain, on the goal line. Completely forgetting that Taylor existed apparently. Oh, what was their first down play on that sequence? A run for Taylor that didn’t work so clearly the fullback should get the next two carries. One 20-yard field goal later and the Badgers were well on their way to losing the game.
The Badgers do this thing where they use a very vanilla playbook against teams, like Illinois, before big games against teams, like Ohio State, and try to eke out a victory and not put anything on tape for the Buckeyes to plan for. It always leads to closer games against inferior teams and this time, well, they forgot to actually win the game.
Lovie’s beard didn’t have anything to do with it, because as a believer in science I know that the only magic beards out there are on Santa’s face and Katie Holmes.
LGHL: The last time that Ohio State and Wisconsin played, the Buckeyes held Jonathan Taylor to just 41 yards on 15 carries. Beyond the fact that he was a freshman in 2017 and is now a junior, how has Taylor grown, changed, and improved since the teams’ last meeting?
Drew Hamm: The main thing that Buckeye fans will notice is that Taylor won’t come off the field on every third and longer than five now! Taylor worked extremely hard in the offseason to become a complete back and he has 16 catches (he combined for this many in his first two years) for 138 yards and four TDs so far. I don’t know if Ohio State would know anything about this, but getting your best player the ball in space as many times as possible is a good thing!
As far as running the ball goes, he hasn’t changed all that much. He is still patient while waiting for his blocks to get set up and then explosive once he gets his hole. He rarely loses yards and can move the pile too if it comes down to it. Ohio State having success against Taylor speaks more to how good the Ohio State defense is. Few teams have success stopping him, and hopefully, Jack Coan will be able to hit a few passes downfield in the first quarter to keep the Buckeyes from putting eight or nine in the box.
LGHL: Ohio State has historically been very good at limiting Wisconsin running backs. If that continues this weekend, where will the Badger offense turn next?
Drew Hamm: LOOK AT THE SEGUE! If Taylor is bottled up early, the Badgers actually have a pretty deep group of pass catchers they can go to. Quintez Cephus (leads the team with 24 catches and 353 yards) is the best of the bunch. He’s big, strong and fast and if Coan can find him deep there will be good yardage to be had.
Danny Davis III and A.J. Taylor are both skilled at working underneath and moving the chains. Kendric Pryor is averaging 17.6 yards per catch and tight end Jake Ferguson has had back to back big games against Illinois (five catches, 77 yards, one TD) and Michigan State (four catches for 62 yards). He’s also Barry Alvarez’s grandson in case you haven’t heard that mentioned any time he is ever on the Big Ten Network.
One of those guys, and preferably two or three, is going to need to have a career day against the Buckeyes if Wisconsin is going to win. Beating Ohio State by running the ball 45 times isn’t going to happen tbqh.
LGHL: The Wisconsin defense is currently the top-ranked unit nationally in terms of yards allowed per game. If the Buckeyes are going to be able to move the ball on Saturday, is there one particular area or unit that they will have to attack?
Drew Hamm: During Thursday’s media availability, Paul Chryst mentioned that starting DE Garrett Rand is now questionable with a “head injury.” Presumably a concussion, but we can never rule out a headless horseman chasing Ichabod Crane scenario where Rand is trying to rush Justin Fields while carrying his head in his arms.
The Badgers often run a 2-4-5 situation on defense, though, so Rand being out isn’t the HUGEST deal, but he is a starter and a good one at that. Where I think the Buckeyes could find the most success is challenging the Wisconsin corners in man-to-man situations, especially in early down scenarios out of running packages. Wisconsin’s corners are still young and improving, but they aren’t at the level yet where they can win battles with OSU’s wide receivers on their own. If Ohio State is cool with throwing it on first down *gasp* I think they’ll have a lot of success.
LGHL: What is the best kind of cheese?
Drew Hamm: So I feel perfectly qualified to discuss this question! I spent much of the last three years bartending at a fancy French restaurant in the Minneapolis suburbs and there was a nice cheese selection there. The best, or at least my favorite, one that they had was Époisses, a soft, stinky cow’s milk cheese that when you spread it on the freshly baked bread that there was you were basically transported to Burgundy. It is washed in Marc de Bourgogne, a brandy, and pairs wonderfully with a nice sweet dessert wine like Sauternes.
But, uh, smoked gouda is my answer. That’s the best kind of cheese.
LGHL: There is a 90 percent chance of rain in Columbus on Saturday, with that in mind, what do you think the story will be after the game, and what do you think the score will be?
Drew Hamm: Rain is good for the underdog. Anything that levels the playing field, amirite? I don’t particularly think it will make that big of a difference in who ends up winning, however. The story after the game will be the game of “anything you can do, I can do better” between Taylor and J.K. Dobbins, who both have good games and score a couple of touchdowns.
The final score will flatter Wisconsin, Buckeyes 31- Badgers 21, but the end result will never really be in doubt.
The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers in Ohio Stadium at 12 noon ET on Saturday, Oct. 26.