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Three Things To Watch from Wisconsin

The Badgers return to Ohio Stadium for a night-time battle against the Buckeyes

New Mexico State v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Here we are. At the beginning of B1G conference play, against a long-time cross-division rival: the Wisconsin Badgers. Ohio State last welcomed Wisconsin into the Horseshoe in 2019, when the Buckeyes defeated the Badgers, 38-7. This game has a “black out” theme, and Ohio Stadium should be rocking when this game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EST on ABC.

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst has never defeated Ohio State, having lost the last four times the two programs have met. Chryst seems to recognize the challenges Ohio State poses offensively, with Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud piloting an explosive passing attack that features Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison, Jr., and Emeka Egbuka.

Praising Ohio State head coach Ryan Day for Ohio State’s offensive success, Chryst had the following to say:

“It’s sound, very good football. Credit to him, I think that’s what’s impressive. It’s what he allows them to do, and he built it.”

Below are Three Things To Watch from Wisconsin as this game starts under the lights in Ohio Stadium.

1) The Ohio State passing game vs. Wisconsin’s secondary

Ohio State’s coaches, players, and fans have seen how teams such as Notre Dame and Arkansas State played deeper in their secondary to reduce or limit the deep passes that Ohio State uses so effectively on offense. Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is among the best in the business, as the Badgers have only allowed an average of eight points during the first three games of the season.

Granted, Wisconsin’s opponents have been Illinois State, Washington State, and New Mexico State, but the Badgers are capable of slowing down even the best of offenses. On the latest Silver Bullets Podcast, our guest Rohan Chakravarthi of Bucky’s 5th Quarter pointed out that Leonhard may use a 2-4-5 scheme, so the passing game may not have as much outright success as Ohio State fans are used to seeing.

2) The Wisconsin running game vs. Ohio State’s run defense

Wisconsin has built their brand around a physical offensive line that wears down their opponents behind a strong running game. Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen is among the nation’s best at his position, and is listed at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds.

The Ohio State defense, which has improved under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, is facing their most difficult test so far this season. The defensive line and linebackers will need to win on first down, keeping Wisconsin to a 2nd-and-7, versus a 2nd and-3 or 2nd-and-4. If Wisconsin is forced to pass, this will be out of their offensive character, and more likely to get the Badgers’ offense off the field.

3) The mystery of the Ohio State running game

The injury to TreVeyon Henderson in last week’s win over Toledo has Ohio State fans naturally concerned. Henderson will probably play, but may be limited physically. Miyan Williams and Dallan Hayden will probably carry the load running the ball against a strong Wisconsin defense. For a true freshman running back such as Hayden, it will bear watching to see what types of situations he is inserted into against the Badgers.

I recognize that the oddsmakers have Ohio State as a strong favorite, but this game has concerned me even before the season began. Something about Wisconsin’s style of play has me leaning towards a slugest similar to what Ohio State fans experienced in the 2019 B1G Championship Game, when the Buckeyes eventually pulled away to win, 34-21. It should be close for at least the first three quarters, but then Ohio State pulls away in the fourth quarter. I have it Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 28.