OVERVIEW: Boy did I miss this pick wide right, or maybe it got blocked at the line. I never saw this offensive team speed out of the Badgers in their previous games against good defenses. They hadn't shown a good passing attack, weren't running the ball all that well and had very few big plays. Well they had all that and more in the first half against the Ohio State defense. In three games against LSU, Michigan State and MIchigan, the Badgers had one run over 20 yards. In those three games they had three pass plays over 20 yards. Against Michigan, they had 71 rushing yards and 88 passing yards FOR THE GAME. Against Ohio State, they had that soon after the first quarter, with several big plays over 20 yards. It's sports. It happens.
THE COACHING: I thought Greg Schiano had his troops on point in the second half, after getting demolished in the first half to the tune of 313 yards. Wisconsin ran it at will and threw all over the vaunted Buckeye secondary in the first half. Coming out of the locker room, Schiano basically had to take a unit that was gashed to death, and find a way to limit Wisconsin to as close to zero points as possible. And he nearly did that. You hear announcers talk about halftime adjustments all the time, and Schiano dialed up more blitzes in passing situations, and also run blitzed more. He gambled with a unit that had just been beat up and it paid off for him. Another key to the game was Ohio State holding Wisconsin to field goals in the first half on two separate first and goal situations. Had those field goals been touchdowns, Ohio State probably would have lost.
THE DEFENSIVE LINE: A weird game out of this group, and you can separate it to awful in the first half and really good in the second half. The guys that really played well were Nick Bosa and Jalyn Holmes, and they provided a huge lift to a group that was getting beat up. Michael Hill and Tyquan Lewis have played better before than they did in this game. Sam Hubbard did a lot of good things rushing the passer, but got run on a lot early in the game. The first half was pretty much every Ohio State fan's worst fear with this group, but they played much better in the second half. Had they not played better, Ohio State would have lost.
THE LINEBACKERS: This was a game tailor-made for Raekwon McMillan to stuff the running game and run sideline to sideline making 15 tackles. That did not happen and he was a non-factor the entire game. The outside linebackers were fooled by the jet sweep often in the first half, and to Wisconsin's credit they kept running it and running it. But in the second half, Chris Worley and Jerome Baker really stepped it up. I love what Baker brings every week. He is very much like Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee early in their careers, that he can be fooled and be out of position, but when he sticks that foot in the ground and changes direction he just explodes to the football. As Baker gets more experience, he's probably going to end up getting drafted after three years in the same spot as the other two.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKS: These guys have been so good in coverage and tackled so well all year that the first half was mind boggling to see none of that happening. Wisconsin had receivers wide open and they were running by these fast DB's. They also missed a ton of tackles on the runningbacks, turning three yard gains into 25-yard gains. In the second half they returned to being lockdown defenders. There was one big pass over Damon Arnette when Ohio State was trying to protect a lead, but he was in good position and the QB made a great throw. Like their teammates, this was a tale of two games, with the first half and second half being radically different.
THE SUMMARY: I still believe this is a great defense, and this is a defensive team. It's hard to throw shutouts every week. Even with the first half poor play, Ohio State only gave up 23 points. Not 43. You learn more as a team in this type of game than you do in beating teams by four touchdowns. Championship teams become champions in high stress situations, like having to be nearly perfect in a second half, or needing a fourth down stop in overtime. This is how it happened two years ago at Penn State, and I'm convinced that was the day Ohio State became champions. Is this year's Wisconsin game one people will look back on after the season concludes?