Another "Toughness" Test for Ohio State

This Saturday the Ohio State Buckeyes will take on Wisconsin in Madison. For the Buckeyes it's another chance to make a big statement on the road, a test they failed miserably against USC three weeks ago. Once again, similar to the USC game, the odds of an Ohio State victory rest with just how "tough" the Buckeyes will play the Badgers. Bill Greene has more in this preview.

As Ohio State travels to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers, I feel this game is eerily similar to three weeks ago, when the Buckeyes got waxed 35-3 by USC. Before the USC game, I wrote that the game was a test of the Buckeyes mental toughness. Ohio State had lost big in the past two national championship games, and I wondered if the Buckeyes were mentally tough enough to stand up to the Trojans when the going got tough. Obviously they failed that test miserably.

Once again, this game will rest on how tough Ohio State will play on the field, but this time it's far more about physical toughness than mental toughness.

The nice thing about playing the Badgers is that they want to play the game exactly the way Ohio State wants to play. Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel is known as one of the most conservative coaches in the country, but Wisconsin makes Tressel look like a riverboat gambler, with their version of "Tressel-ball."

Wisconsin doesn't try to trick or fool anybody with their game plan. They want to turn every game into a street fight, and physically dominate their opponent in the trenches. Their intent is to wear down the opposition physically, both offensively and defensively. If you aren't physically tough enough to stand up to the Badgers, you will not beat them, regardless of a speed or skill advantage.

In this game the key for Ohio State is to be physically tougher than the Badgers. I'm not interested in schemes or breaking tendencies; rather this game will be about winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, because if Ohio State controls the inside play then a victory could be pretty easily achieved.

The main difference between these two teams is the fact that Ohio State has two elite play-makers, Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells, while Wisconsin has zero. Wisconsin has plenty of good players, players that get first downs. Pryor and Wells score touchdowns, and both are threats to score from anywhere on the field. If the Buckeyes can give their play-makers room, then they should be able to put points on the board, and turn this game into a shoot-out.

Make no mistake about it, the Badgers want a low-scoring game, preferably played in the teens or low 20's. They absolutely cannot beat Ohio State in a 38-35 game, and will totally try to control tempo and time of possession. If Ohio State is tough enough to stop the Wisconsin running game, and it is primarily toughness that will do the trick, because there is little deception to the Badger attack, a Buckeye victory could be surprisingly easy.

Wisconsin likes to throw the football when it wants to, not when they have to. They want to get the lead, and pound the football behind a huge, aggressive offensive line. If Ohio State can get Pryor and Wells loose early, and put points on the board, that will force Wisconsin to abandon its running game, and try to beat Ohio State throwing the football. That is exactly what Ohio State wants to see the Badgers have to do.

In short, this game will be decided in the trenches. If Ohio State can control both lines of scrimmage and create room for Wells and Pryor while limiting the Badger running game, it should be the recipe for a Buckeye win.

Looking for ten keys to a Buckeye win? How about Dexter Larimore, Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson, Lawrence Wilson, Michael Brewster, Alex Boone, Jim Cordle, Ben Person, Steve Rehring and Bryant Browning? It's on you fellows. Simply put, are you "tough" enough to physically whip the man across the line from you?

Should Ohio State get dominated up front on both sides of the ball, it could be a long night for the Buckeyes inside the "Madhouse in Madison." It's all about toughness for Ohio State. They failed the first "toughness" test, a mental one, against USC. If they don't win this "physical" toughness test against Wisconsin, the chance of winning a third straight outright Big Ten title will become almost gone. Take that to the Bank.


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