View From the Bleachers

Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien tossed two interceptions last year at Ohio State, numbers he will have to improve if the Badgers have a chance at knocking off the No. 1 Buckeyes this season.

MADISON — It is telling that after defeating Minnesota for the seventh straight time, in the longest running rivalry in college football, nearly all of the post-game interviews involved comments about new No. 1 Ohio State.

A question about carrying Paul Bunyan's Axe off the field would quickly be followed with a query on what it will take to dethrone the Buckeyes for the first time in head coach Bret Bielema's tenure.

Although that undoubtedly says something about the state of Minnesota's football program, we at Badger Nation prefer to focus on what it says about the No. 1 team in the country.

A master of coach-speak and downplaying the significance of potentially epic showdowns, even Bielema did not bother to hide his excitement for the upcoming contest —a game ESPN determined was worthy of bringing College Gameday to Madison.

"I think it's a game for us, and me personally, of tremendous challenge," Bielema said Saturday. "But it's all out of respect. It's not a hatred thing, or out of disrespect. I just really admire what they do. Until we're able to surpass that and get a ‘W,' that's what we have to live with."

For his career, Bielema is 0-3 against the likes of Ohio State — the only Big Ten team he has never defeated — and is just 1-8 in regular season games against ranked opponents. The last time Wisconsin faced a No. 1 overall team, it was Ohio State in 2007, with the Buckeyes carrying the day 38-17 in Columbus. So calling it a tremendous challenge might even be an understatement.

Still, there is a way to overcome The Ohio State. Looking at the Badgers defeat last season at the Horseshoe is a place to start:

Turnover Free is the Way to Be

Losing to OSU last season 31-13, the Badgers outgained Ohio State 368 yards to 184 yards. The Buckeyes didn't crack 100 yards in rushing OR passing.

So what led to an 18-point deficit?

For one, turnovers.

Quarterback Scott Tolzien tossed two interceptions — BOTH of which were returned for touchdowns as he telegrammed the routes — that forced the offense to abandon the run game when down by double-digit points. With the Buckeyes able to tee off on Tolzien and the air attack they forced the UW signal caller into 18 incompletions and piled on six sacks.

The good news: Tolzien hasn't thrown an interception in four games, has a 7-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ration on the season, and the offense has a whole hasn't lost a fumble since San Jose State. If the Badgers can just keep on doing what they have been doing, they won't give away points and possessions this time around.

Special Teams a Misnomer

With Ohio State unable to move the ball on offense, the crafty Tressel coached team found other ways to score.

Ray Small took a kick back 96 yards in the third quarter to put the Buckeyes up 15 points, effectively sealing victory with the Badgers banging their head against a superb OSU defense.

The bad news: Umm, nothing has changed.

Looking good in the first two games of the season, the UW special teams once again blew up when faced with a BCS opponent in Arizona State. The Sundevils returned one kick for a score and almost found the end zone a second time before Shelton Johnson took down the ASU returner at the one-yard line with time expiring in the half.

The Badgers were snake-bit once again at Michigan State, when a line drive punt from Brad Nortman was returned by MSU's Keshawn Martin 74 yards for a touchdown.

Ohio State returner Jaamal Berry ranks second in the conference on kick returns with 28.2 yards per return.

Think Bielema might devote some extra time to coverage units this week?

Cliché, Cliché … but it's kind of true

Ohio State has a distinct aura of winning. Even in games where they are outgained by 184 yards.

It happened two years ago when Terrelle Pryor scampered 11-yards for the game winning touchdown and it happened last season with the Buckeyes "D" stepping up.

Someone needs to make plays.

It is comforting at least that Tolzien acknowledges the fact.

"We're just going to have to play our best game up to this point," he said. "I think one thing that sticks out in my mind is you hear that great players step up in big games, and we just have to come out and be ready to play. We need to make plays. We know they're going to make their share of plays and we just need to be able to match that."


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