Game Week: Wisconsin

Ohio State has found their way into the Big Ten title game on a nice winning streak, although they are the underdogs this week against Wisconsin. How will this game turn out for the Buckeyes? Can they find a way to beat the Badgers and sneak into the college playoffs?

- First off, my confidence factor at trying to pick a winner in this game would be zero, or near that number. The injury to J.T. Barrett will not allow me to write about this game in a way that makes me feel I have a clue as to how it's going to be played. This would be the exact opposite of most of the games I've tried to predict this season. Take that for what it's worth.

- Big games usually come down to coaching, defense and quarterback play. I think both coaching staffs are sharp, and they matched up well last year in Columbus from a strategic standpoint. From a defensive standpoint, I would give Wisconsin a slight edge. As far as QB play, let's be kind and say I would have others higher on my list of who I'd want to play a big game with than these two guys. Both offenses will play very conservative, and probably throw the football only when forced to.

- Special teams could be huge in this game, and I see Ohio State either blocking a punt or Jalin Marshall taking one back to the house. The Wisconsin punt team is not good, and this is something to watch. It can change a close game to Ohio State's favor. On the flip side, Ohio State's field goal kicker does not inspire confidence. Google the Spinx/Tyson fight and see how scared poor Michael looked walking into the ring against Iron Mike. The Buckeye kicker looks less confident than that. For good reason.

- The biggest edge I can find in this game is how do each stop the other's run game? Whoever can stop the run and make a shaky quarterback have to throw can win this game. I think Wisconsin "might" be able to stop Ohio State's inside game, and if they can they get a huge plus toward winning. Can they stop the Buckeye speed to the edge? Will Ohio State remember they have Marshall on offense, and let him touch the ball more than the three times he did against Michigan? Melvin Gordon is going to run the football on Ohio State. They have played similar backs against Indiana and Minnesota, and those teams had terrible quarterbacks as well. Stack the line? Take away the run and force them to pass? Sounds good, but it could not be done against the Hoosiers and Gophers. Ohio State had better find a way this week, or you're going to see Urban eating cold pizza again around 11:00 p.m.

- Where is there an edge? Who has something the other team doesn't have? If you look up "pedestrian wide receivers" in the dictionary just about everyone playing in this game qualifies. Except one player: Devin Smith. I don't think Cardale Jones does a lot well in the passing game, but he can throw the football very, very far. And Devin Smith can run very, very far in the fastest time of anyone on the field. I don't think there are going to be a lot of big plays in this game, and I expect a slug-fest, but Smith is the one player on the field that can dial long distance. If they will target him and look his way often, he can break one to the house. Maybe two. And that could be the difference in the game. Just like he was the difference against Michigan State.

- What about the loss of Barrett? He is one of the best players in the country, and the most valuable Buckeye this year, apologies to Evan Spencer. This loss is a tough one, but it can be overcome by the Ohio State coaching staff. They will not run the same offense, despite what is being said. They didn't run the same offense with Barrett that they did previously with Braxton Miller. The good thing for Ohio State is they will probably play this game very similar to how they played the previous two years with Miller under center, so they've been there before. You just can't have the same passing attack with Jones, or Miller for that matter, that they have with Barrett. I absolutely expect to see Marshall in the Wildcat, maybe for 10-15 plays. He can throw it too, a safe, short dumpoff, as opposed to Barrett scanning the field and going through progressions.

- Who wins? What makes the difference? I think the game will be close, and somewhat low scoring compared to what college football is nowadays. If you look closely at Wisconsin, the wins have all been by large numbers for the most part. They do not win close games, and they have found ways to turn close wins into tough losses the past two seasons. Ohio State on the other hand, found a way to hang in there and beat Penn State. Went on the road, got down early, and battled back to beat Michigan State. They trailed or were threatened in the second half by Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan, but found a way to win. I see this as the difference. If it's tight, and I expect it to be tight, Ohio State can find a way to victory. Not sure Wisconsin can.

THE PICK: Ohio State 27 Wisconsin 24.


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