Defense faces tough test

Ohio State's defense faces a tough test this week as they go up against a Wisconsin offense with talent everywhere and ready to give the Buckeye run defense their first real test of the season.

Ohio State enters its week six showdown with Wisconsin as the No.1 defense in the country against the run.

The Buckeyes are giving up just 43.4 yards per game on the ground, but have yielded 229.6 passing yards per game.

The Badgers are known for their effective running attack, so the onus will be on OSU's defense to prove that it is truly one of the top units in the land.

"I think one of the reasons we're No.1 in the country against the run is because no teams really try to establish the run against us," OSU defensive end Simon Fraser said. "Wisconsin will be the first team we've played that is committed to establishing the run. It's going to be a very big challenge for us to see how good we really are against the run.

"Their offensive line, their quarterback says it's the best he's seen in a couple years, so it's going to be a big challenge for us up front to establish the dominance on the line of scrimmage."

Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis is still hobbled by an ankle injury and will not be at 100 percent if he is able to play on Saturday. If Davis can't go, the Badgers will rely on Booker Stanley and Dwayne Smith to carry the load.

"They've been using all three of those guys and they've all got the job done," Fraser said. "We don't know if Davis is going to play, but they are all capable of making big plays. Even if Davis is out, our focus is going to be on stopping the run."

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel echoed those comments.

"Our emphasis is always, number one, to stop the run," Tressel said. "But nobody we've played will come at us like we expect them to. This will be a quantum leap in the challenge we expect to see in the run game."

Wisconsin will get its share of yards on the ground, but the Badgers can also do some damage through the air. Quarterback Jim Sorgi is not nearly the runner that former QB Brooks Bollinger was, but Sorgi is a better passer.

"He played a lot last year when they played us, so we have a handle of what his capabilities are," Fraser said of Sorgi. "He has a good arm, he makes great decisions and he's a smart guy. He's going to make the right decisions and try and expose our defense, so we've just got to try and disguise and create pressure for him so he has to move out of the pocket where he's uncomfortable."

Under coordinator Mark Dantonio, Ohio State has one of the most aggressive defenses in the country. The Buckeyes will blitz from anywhere, at anytime. But Wisconsin likes running misdirections and will try and trick defenses from time to time. Therefore, OSU's defensive players have been warned not to be too aggressive.

"We have to be physical and aggressive, but at the same time, we've got to be disciplined," Fraser said. "We have to make sure we have the right gaps, the right assignments. We don't want to take our aggressiveness away, but still, we've got to play disciplined ball."

Safety Nate Salley agreed.

"We just have to play together as a team," Salley said. "We have to go out and give it our best effort. It will be a little different playing a team that doesn't go five wide receivers all the time. But I think we'll be OK. We know we have to be disciplined against this team. We can't be running all over the place. We have to keep contain and not be out of control."

Looking at personnel, Ohio State's defense enters the Wisconsin game in pretty good shape health-wise.

The only player listed as questionable is tackle Darrion Scott (ankle), but he is expected to play.

Cornerback E.J. Underwood will miss the rest of the season after slicing his hand on a glass bottle, so there are some big concerns about the depth in the secondary.

Chris Gamble and Dustin Fox are of course the starting corners, but beyond that, things are not looking good. True freshman Ashton Youboty is now the third corner and he will get his baptism under fire on Saturday when Wisconsin goes three and four wide. Remember, it was Underwood who had a tough game in Madison last year as a true frosh on the island. It remains to be seen if Youboty can hold his own.

The fourth corner is Harlen Jacobs, a player that still hasn't proven he can get the job done consistently.

At linebacker, the Buckeyes might finally get a chance to get three 'backers on the field at the same time. For the majority of the season, they've been in nickel packages and have only had two LBs on the field together.

This week, look for a lot of A.J. Hawk, Rob Reynolds and Bobby Carpenter. Hawk is having a monster year, leading the team in tackles (a very appropriate 47), tackles-for-loss (7.5) and tied for the team lead in interceptions (2).

On the defensive line, look for the Bucks to create havoc against a somewhat inexperienced Wisconsin offensive line. If you remember back to last year's game, the Bucks had a tremendous amount of success at getting to Bollinger. They didn't have quite as much success pressuring Sorgi for whatever reason, but this year, look for Will Smith, Tim Anderson, Scott and Fraser to spend a lot of time making plays in the backfield.

And when OSU's starting D-linemen need a rest, reinforcements will be ready.

"The young guys on our D-line have done a great job," Fraser said. "They've all stepped up and made big plays when we needed it. That's the biggest surprise of the season so far. These guys come in and there doesn't seem to be a drop off."

Obviously, a big key to the Buckeyes' defensive success will be forcing turnovers. Wisconsin was beaten 23-5 in Madison by a rather weak UNLV team earlier in the year, in large part because of turnovers.

"Yeah, UNLV got a lot of turnovers and I think that helped them out a lot," Fraser said. "That forced Wisconsin to into more of a passing attack to try to catch up. We've got to go out there and try and stop the run, get some turnovers and get to the quarterback to win the game."

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