Long-time Big Ten rivals Wisconsin and Ohio State will face each other on Saturday night. It will be the first meeting in the regular season between the team since 2019 when the Buckeyes won 38-7 in Columbus. They met again later that season in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship Game where Ohio State was victorious again, 34-21.
This season, Wisconsin enters Saturday's game at 2-1, combining routs of FCS Illinois State (38-7) and New Mexico State (66-7) with a puzzling 17-14 home loss to Washington State in Week 2. Entering the season, the Badgers were the pick by many to win the Big Ten West, and they can get off to a great start towards that goal by defeating Ohio State for the first time since 2010. Besides losing the last eight meetings overall with the Buckeyes, Wisconsin hasn't won in Columbus since 2004.
Ohio State is 3-0 with wins over Notre Dame, Arkansas State, and Toledo in the non-conference slate. The Buckeyes recognize the challenge of a physical team such as Wisconsin and will be using a "black out" theme for this prime-time game.
Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State
When Wisconsin Has the Ball
Ever since former head coach Barry Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990, the Badgers have developed a strong reputation for physical play along the line of scrimmage, with a dependable running game. Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst has maintained that style with sophomore Braelon Allen as the current feature back. True to form, Allen is among the nation's leading rushers with 332 yards and five touchdowns on 50 carries (6.6 ypc). Slowing him down will be the focus of an Ohio State defense that is giving up 84.3 rushing yards per game and only 2.6 yards per carry thus far.
Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz provides the complement to the ground game. He has completed 71 percent of his passes for 697 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in the early going. It's also worth pointing out that he is second in the Big Ten in yards per pass attempt (11.2), just a tick ahead of his counterpart in this game, C.J. Stroud (11.1). Wisconsin's passing game may not be as prolific as the Buckeyes' but Mertz isn't afraid to take a show downfield either. Getting pressure on Mertz (sacked six times) will be key, especially if Ohio State has trouble containing Allen. Otherwise, the Badgers may be able to mix in some play-action passes to make it harder for the Buckeyes to focus on the run.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Stroud is off to another strong start in 2022, completing 62 of 85 passes (72.9 percent) for 941 yards and 11 touchdowns. The touchdowns lead the Big Ten and also tie him for most in the nation. He has an impressive arsenal of wide receivers to involve in the passing game, a group that includes Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka.
Stroud may get more chances to throw the ball with running back TreVeyon Henderson's status unknown. He left last week's win over Toledo with an injury and was spotted in a walking boot on the sideline. The good news is the injury is not considered serious and Henderson could play on Saturday. But he also may be held out as a precautionary measure, leaving Miyan Williams and Dallan Hayden to carry the load. Williams is the team's leading rusher with 207 yards on 32 carries (6.5 ypc), but a healthy Henderson will be needed for the Buckeyes' offense to function at full strength.
Wisconsin is once again stout defensively and has surrendered a total of 24 points in its first three games. But Ohio State presents an entirely different challenge. Chryst recognizes how important it is to get pressure on Stroud, saying, "Any time a quarterback has time or is comfortable, the world is a little bit easier for them." Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is widely respected and he'll try and come up with a game plan that disrupts the Buckeyes' passing game to try and make the offense more one-dimensional.
The oddsmakers have Ohio State as a clear favorite, but the history of this conference rivalry with Wisconsin is usually one that involves close games. It should be that way again through at least the first three quarters, but the Buckeyes should be able to pull away a bit late.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 28
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