The Buckeyes and Badgers are set to meet once again in primetime Saturday night, and there is much on the line for both teams. The BSB staff gives you their five biggest things to watch for in Madison.
1. Ohio State's Passing Offense vs. Wisconsin's Defense
A week after looking less than stellar in a home game against Indiana, J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes have worked hard on the passing game in practice according to the coaching staff. Against the Hoosiers, Barrett failed to throw for 100 yards for just the first time since last seasons 17-14 loss to Michigan State. Urban Meyer has yet to lose a true road game in his time at Ohio State, and Barrett has been stellar in the past in prime time road games (MSU 2014, Oklahoma). That said, the Badgers secondary have tallied seven interceptions through five games, good for third in the Big Ten. This matchup could very well be the one that decides the game.
2. How Many Touches For Curtis Samuel?
Ohio State's leading receiver and most explosive playmaker touched the ball just nine times against Indiana and did not record a catch in the 38-17 win. Meyer said that the target number of touches for Samuel is closer to 15 and for the Buckeyes to get by a stout Wisconsin defense, he might need even more. Will Ohio State create easy reads for Barrett to get Samuel the ball in the passing game? Or does Samuel get more carries out of the backfield against Badgers? Look to see what the Buckeye staff has planned for their best playmaker.
3. Will OSU blitz Hornibrook?
For the first time in a long time, the Buckeye defense is set to take on not only a freshman signal caller, but a lefty at that. Hornibrook has started just two games in his young career, neither of which have come at home. The southpaw led the Badgers to a 30-6 win over Michigan State before coming up short against Michigan 14-7 a week later. Hornibrook has not exactly impressed in his two starts, throwing two touchdowns to four interceptions. With the secondary playing as well as it has for Greg Schiano, will the Buckeyes dial up some blitzes to try and frustrate the young quarterback? The Wisconsin skill players have not shown the ability to beat man coverage much this season.
4. Can Ohio State Limit Its Penalties?
The Buckeyes have struggled this season when it comes to penalties. It was especially evident against Oklahoma, when the Ohio State offense was trying to get lined up in the face of a raucous crowd. Once again, the Buckeyes will be dealing with one of the loudest atmospheres college football has to offer. Will the Buckeyes make a change in their schematics of getting the play communicated, and will penalties hurt OSU like they have to this point in the season?
5. Special Team Could Decide The Game
The Badgers are without star kicker Rafael Gaglianone and in a close game, that could cost the Badgers. Andrew Endicott has filled in since and has been solid, but if this game comes down to a game winning field goal attempt for the Badgers, the loss of Gaglianone could loom large. In the last two contests in Madison between these two teams, the winning team has made a big play on special teams. In 2010, Wisconsin returned the opening kickoff for a score in what would be a 31-18 upset of then ranked No. 1 Ohio State. In 2012, Philly Brown returned a Wisconsin punt for a score in the first half as the Buckeyes won in overtime, 21-14.