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Staff Predictions: 2nd-Ranked Buckeyes Favored Over No. 8 Wisconsin

The BSB staff, and guest picker Benjamin Worgull of Badger Nation, all took the Buckeyes over Wisconsin – but it could be close.

James Grega

It seems like every year the Buckeyes and Badgers play, the game is just simply on a bigger stage. Even when one of the teams is having a down year like Ohio State in 2011, the game seems to be hyped up more than your average Big Ten matchup. This season is no different, as the two conference foes meet as top-10 teams.

After a poor showing against Indiana, I fully expect the Ohio State pass offense to be much improved against the Badgers. Urban Meyer has said the passing game would be worked hard during the week, and I believe him. J.T. Barrett is too good a player to have two poor showings in a row, and I think he will bounce back. That said, the Badgers have been solid in pass defense this season. Sojourn Shelton is a four-year starter at corner, and the other cornerback, Derrick Tindal, leads Wisconsin in interceptions with three. This should be a good matchup, but I am giving the combination of Meyer and Barrett the slight edge.

On the other side, Wisconsin has struggled mightily to move the ball on offense this season. The Badgers are already on their second quarterback, Alex Hornibrook, after benching Bart Houston after three games. The typical Badger running game has not been there yet this season, and after watching their games against Michigan and LSU, I cannot see Wisconsin outscoring the Buckeyes unless Ohio State beats itself with turnovers.

SCORE: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 17

Ryan McGlade

Going up against the No. 1 rush defense in the Big Ten, J.T. Barrett must have a successful game throwing the ball. Ohio State may not be able to rely heavily on its running game as it did last week against Indiana.

Barrett completed only nine passes for 93 yards in the game but ran for 137 yards on 26 carries. Seeing this, the Wisconsin coaching staff has assuredly game-planned for it and would probably like to force the Buckeyes to beat their team through the air. 

That said, I would not be surprised to see the Badgers load the box on defense to try to stop OSU’s potent running attack. Barrett, Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber will have their work cut out for them Saturday night.

Urban Meyer has noted this week that the success of the passing game is dependent upon hitting a couple of deep throws. The Buckeyes will need to connect on a few of these so their top three rushers have room to work. 

Defensively, I expect the Buckeyes to handle the Wisconsin offense. The Badgers prefer to run the ball, and the Buckeye defense is surrendering only 98.0 rushing yards per game. Additionally, it is the only team in the FBS to not allow a rushing touchdown. 

If OSU shuts down Wisconsin’s ground attack, the Badgers will have to rely on Alex Hornibrook’s arm, and I don’t think that alone will get the job done.

I expect the game to be close throughout, but I see the Buckeyes surviving.

SCORE: Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 20

Tim Moody

Here are some things I know:

First, Ohio State runs the ball as well as anyone in the country, but the Buckeyes have yet to be tested through the air. Secondly, Wisconsin is great against the run but poor against the pass and generally not very good on offense.

All of that adds up to a game that should favor Ohio State – and no, I don’t buy into the road night game being a big issue for the Buckeyes. The Badgers are probably better than any team Ohio State has faced this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have enough in the tank to challenge Urban Meyer’s men.

On offense, the Buckeyes face a stiff challenge on the ground, but I’m not sure there’s a challenge stiff enough to actually slow down Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel, as long as Ohio State’s talented offensive line executes. I’ve never thought J.T. Barrett was a great passer, and he more or less proved that last week, but he’s also not as bad on the deep ball as he showed against Indiana. If Barrett can hit one or two passes that he might have missed last week, the Buckeyes will roll on offense.

Defensively, Ohio State has a huge upper hand, and an early lead would mean Wisconsin has to fight back. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook is, well, probably not good enough to lead a comeback charge with his arm, so I see Wisconsin falling behind early and turning the ball over a few times in a comeback try that won’t amount to anything.

SCORE: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 13

Jeff Svoboda

For the second time this year, Ohio State goes on the road to take on a highly rated opponent, and much like the Buckeyes’ trip to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners, I think Ohio State will be able to roll in Madison.

Wisconsin certainly has a very good defense, and there’s a path for the Badgers to win this game. If Wisconsin takes an early lead, much like it did during the 2010 game against No. 1 OSU, the defense is good enough to keep the Buckeyes at bay and let the Badgers shorten the game and sneak out of Camp Randall Stadium with a victory.

I just don’t see it happening, though. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook let the Michigan defense rattle him, and it’s likely the Buckeyes can put similar pressure on the freshman if the Badgers get behind. Conversely, the Badgers’ running game still isn’t near where it was in its heyday a few years ago, making it even more difficult for Wisconsin to hold a lead if the Badgers do get ahead.

Wisconsin did limit Michigan’s offense throughout their recent game, but the Wolverines were unable to punch the ball into the end zone to finish drives and missed three field goals, or else the game likely would have been more lopsided than the eventual 14-7 margin.

I think coming off a bit of a humbling game vs. Indiana, the Buckeyes will be efficient enough on offense in Madison. If that’s the case, Wisconsin simply can’t keep pace.

SCORE: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 14

Blake Williams

After two weeks of relatively easy wins over Rutgers and Indiana, Ohio State is once again facing a rather formidable opponent in No. 8 Wisconsin, the first of two consecutive road night contests for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State didn’t look stellar against Indiana – especially in the passing game – but was able to remain in control against the Hoosiers. While the struggles were largely pinned on J.T. Barrett’s passing problems (9 of 23 for 93 yards with a touchdown and an interception), the fact that Curtis Samuel got just nine touches was equally problematic.

That type of game plan won’t fly against the Badgers and their fourth-ranked scoring defense. Ohio State has the best offense of any team Wisconsin has faced, but the Buckeyes will need to get their playmakers – especially Samuel – in space. Urban Meyer certainly knows that, and I’m confident that the coach will get the ball in the hands of his biggest weapon early and often.

Wisconsin has rightfully leaned on its defense thus far this season as the offense has been mediocre. The Badgers have the 87th-ranked scoring defense in the country with equal mediocrity running (78th nationally) and passing (97th nationally).

 The Buckeyes boast an impressive defense of their own and are allowing fewer points per game than the Badgers. In a matchup of elite defenses, Wisconsin may have the slight edge thanks to the raucous home crowd at Camp Randall Stadium, but the Ohio State offense, thanks to a steady dose of Samuel, will be far better than the home team.

SCORE: Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 17

Benjamin Worgull, Badger Nation

The school once known as “Running Back U” is under renovation, allowing a new tenant to become the face of the Wisconsin program.

Wisconsin’s defense continues to impress even without three opening-day starters and is coming off a performance in which it held a Michigan offense averaging over 52 points per game to only 14 on the road. Although Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett is better than Michigan’s Wilton Speight, it’s not a stretch to think that the Badgers, coming off the bye week and with ample time to game-plan without senior outside linebacker Vince Biegel, can’t frustrate an Ohio State offense averaging a similar point total. 

The big concern for Wisconsin is the previously teased running game. Even though the passing game ranks 97th in the country (198.6 yards per game), a big reason the Badgers are 106th nationally in total offense (360.2 ypg) is because the running game hasn’t been explosive.

The problem is threefold: 1) UW has faced some really good fronts. 2) The injuries at left guard have caused UW to reshuffle its lines. 3) Corey Clement hasn’t been his explosive self as UW’s lead back. Combine all three and UW hasn’t had the explosive runs (only two over 20 yards by a tailback) that prevent teams from loading the box. That factoid certainly has stressed UW’s inexperienced quarterbacks by putting them in third-and-long situations, leading to troubles converting on third down and in the red zone.

Ohio State is playing fantastic and the Badgers have not been on offense. I expect a physical four-quarter game but believe the Buckeyes will prevail.

SCORE: Ohio State 23, Wisconsin 17

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