Cus Words Week 5: Time Has Come Today

Ohio State has moved through its nonconference schedule at 4-0, but a lot will be learned as the Buckeyes begin the league slate this weekend about Wisconsin. Players like Curtis Grant will be tested both on the field against Wisconsin's rushing attack and between the ears in what could be a stiff test.

What we learned last week:
The Buckeyes certainly have a killer instinct.

After complaints of a lull following their big start in the season opener against Buffalo, there was no such reaction to prosperity in the past two home games (Cal's response to Ohio State's early haymakers had more to do with the Golden Bears being good on offense than with the Buckeyes blinking).

With Kenny Guiton at the controls, the Buckeyes continued to surge after an early touchdown barrage. While the opponent certainly left a lot to be desired, I do find it important to see how Ohio State reacted to itself early in the season because emotions are going to be big all year.

No complacency seemed to bother the Buckeyes during the preconference schedule, and we found out there are plenty of weapons at the disposal of whoever is playing quarterback.

One of the other writers in the postgame interview room compared Ohio State's schedule so far to the NFL preseason, and that metaphor really does work upon further inspection.

The starters played a lot but did not finish the first two games, then the third outing served as a nice dress rehearsal. Then the Florida A&M game practically turned out to be more about the jayvees than the starters.

I think that game was probably good for morale, too, as a bunch of guys who have been working hard in practice got to see what it's like to take the field at Ohio Stadium against someone in a different-colored jersey.

But let's not spend too much time on the FCS team with Big Ten play on the horizon…

What we can expect to learn this week:
How tough are the Buckeyes?

Wisconsin's talent – I mean pure, raw, NFL-quality talent – is questionable to me at some positions, but this is a team well-built in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

The Badgers' 206 rushing yards last season were more than just Montee Ball – several times they creased a good, veteran Ohio State front seven that is more than 85 percent gone now.

If we're going to cite that yardage total, though, we should point out it took 56 attempts to reach. That is an average of 3.7 yards per carry, so the Buckeyes in general did a good job of making the Badgers work for their yards.

Though it is very run-oriented, this Wisconsin offense thrives on big plays. Both James White and Melvin Gordon are home-run hitters who can find a hole and go, go, go. Maintaining leverage – a major problem early for Ohio State last season – has been solid so far this year for the Buckeyes, and it will be of the utmost importance this week. Consistent tackling will also be crucial, of course.

Athletically there is a lot to like about the Ohio State defensive line, and the unit has demonstrated good depth as well, but the Buckeyes have not faced this type of attack yet this season. The line will need to be stout on early downs to protect the linebackers and create chances to rush the passer, where they will likely have an advantage.

While much of the focus will likely be on the battle between the big uglies when Wisconsin has the ball, I think the OSU offense has something to prove in this matchup as well.

The Badgers held Ohio State to only 236 total yards last season – by far the fewest the Buckeyes gained in any game during their undefeated season. That was in part because Wisconsin's defensive front held its own and partly because quarterback Braxton Miller seemed to have a hard time figuring out where to go with the ball.

Assuming Miller is back in the lineup this week, it will be interesting to see if he is rusty. He looked smoother in the pocket and more consistent in his throws and reads in the season opener against Buffalo, but two-plus weeks on the bench might have retarded some of that progress.

I am not in the camp that thinks there should be any type of quarterback controversy in Columbus. For all the positives Kenny Guiton brings to the offense, Miller's ability to make big plays is irreplaceable, and he was showing progress in a lot of areas he had deficiencies before he went down in the San Diego State game.

Wisconsin is young in the secondary and gave up 352 yards passing to the only competent team it has faced so far this season – Arizona State in week three – so there should be opportunities for Devin Smith, Philly Brown and the rest of the Buckeye receivers to make big plays if they can get back in sync with Miller.

Because of the questions at quarterback, though, establishing the run will be important. This looks like a match of strength on strength as Ohio State's veteran offensive line goes up against a Wisconsin front with a new look – new head coach Gary Andersen has installed a 3-4 – but a lot of familiar faces up front. Some guys who got pushed around as youngsters on the line a couple of years ago have rounded into stout Big Ten defensive linemen, and playmaking linebacker Chris Borland is still the beneficiary of that for one more season.

As much as I think the talent edge lies clearly on the side of Ohio State, toughness tests can't be simulated, so there are things about these Buckeyes that are impossible to know so far.

That should change by the time the clock strikes midnight Saturday.


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