The Badgers -- as everyone knows -- are coming off a horrible, humiliating loss against the Indiana Hoosiers, of all teams. I remember seeing the scores flash across the screen on Saturday afternoon. First it was 16-0 Indiana in the first quarter, and I thought it was a mistake. But before I could get on the computer to double-check, it was 23-0. And with every update, it seemed that the score got worse and worse. It was inexplicable at the time, and it still is.
How did Indiana do that to Wisconsin? It's hard to say since I didn't see the game. But the guess here is that this was a freak occurrence. Wisconsin is going to get past it, and chances are they will come to Columbus this week and be ready to play.
The Badgers' offense does have the ability to move the ball. Brooks Bollinger is a familiar face to Buckeye fans. He can be effective with both the run and the pass. When he gets the ball in the air, watch out for Lee Evans, who is one of the top receivers in the Big Ten. Evans has 718 yards on 35 catches with 4 TDs this year, so he will be one of the main offensive options for Wisconsin. Another familiar face -- Nick Davis -- is the other receiver to watch for although he has had a disappointing season so far, with only ten catches on the year.
In the backfield, redshirt freshman Anthony Davis has been a pleasant surprise. He is a bit small at 5-8, 189, but he has great stats so far this year as he has rushed for 725 yards on 117 carries (6.0 average) with 4 TDs. He had turf toe against Indiana and did not play; I haven't heard about his status for this week. His back up is Jerone Pettus, who will see time regardless. He has rushed for over 200 yards this season. The Wisconsin offensive line is solid, but they are a bit banged up though; starting center Al Johnson appears to be out for this week's game.
The defensive line is having some big injury troubles, which is one thing that didn't help against the Hoosiers. DT Wendell Bryant is the star, and Buckeye fans are very familiar with him. He's a projected high NFL draft pick and will be tough to deal with. But the rest of the line is having problems. DT Jake Sprague is out for the season, and it also looks like DE/DT Darius Jones won't return this year either. Also, DE Delante McGrew and DT Chuck Smith are banged up and it is not known if they will play against Ohio State. With the help of these injuries, the OSU OL could be able to have a lot of success on Saturday despite the presence of Bryant.
The linebackers are led by seniors Nick Griesen and Bryson Thompson. Griesen has 78 tackles so far to lead the team by a big margin. The secondary is led by the experienced Mike Echols at corner, and freshman Scott Starks is at the other corner. Senior Joey Boese and sophomore Michael Broussard are the safeties. The Badgers have allowed 169 yards in the air per game this year, but they have allowed 191 on the ground. Mark Neuser will be the kicker; he is inexperienced but is 2-2 this year. The punter, Kirk Munden, is averaging 40 yards per punt.
Looking at the defensive analysis, common sense might tell you that OSU could be able to once again see a lot of success with their power running game. With the injuries on the defensive line -- which is also undersized in key areas -- the Buckeyes might be able to once again control the game at the line of scrimmage and successfully run the ball. Wendell Bryant is always a headache, but he won't be able to do it alone.
On defense, the Buckeyes just have to be the Buckeyes. If they keep the intensity that they had against Northwestern, it will be hard for Wisconsin to score enough points to win. Anthony Davis' injury problems will help. Lee Evans has to be accounted for; he may be the main concern. But OSU had a lot of success against Brooks Bollinger last year, and I look for it to continue this year.
Wisconsin is never a team to take lightly. We all know what happened two years ago when the Badgers came into Columbus after a loss and routed Ohio State, and we all know what happened last year as OSU had a big win that vaulted them into the national spotlight only to see Minnesota come in the next week and stun the Buckeyes.
But will the Badgers have what it takes to win in Columbus, especially with the injuries on the defensive line? The guess here is no. Last week, Indiana's Levron Williams ran all over Wisconsin for a career day, and I look for OSU to do the same. Look for the Buckeyes to stick to that power attack and pull away from Wisconsin. Pick: OSU 28, Wisconsin 14.