1, The Badger offensive tackles vs PU defensive end Ryan Russell (#99); 2, Joel Stave the game manager; 3, Defensive Swarm; 4, Opening Field Position for Purdue; 5, Flags for Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary.
Ryan Russell was effectively neutralized as the Badgers limited him to one tackle and the run game flourished as a consequence. Most Purdue tackles took place deep in the secondary. Stave was effective as a game manager, limiting the risk. His ability to convert third downs still needs to improve, though he lacked an important receiver as Jacob Pedersen wasn't available.
The defense did show itself capable of completely shutting down Purdue. Head Coach Gary Andersen called a late-game time out, with a four-touchdown lead, to ask his defense to "bow up" and noted that players were running around without much purpose. He was rewarded with a goal line stop, a penalty and an interception, prompting Andersen's biggest reaction of the day. Opening field position was a big factor in Purdue's two scores. A good return set up the Boilermakers' one touchdown drive of 55 yards and an interception set up a very short field goal for the only other score. Purdue was not able to sustain drives of any distance and was 2 of 14 on third down. Finally, the Badger secondary was able to keep the ball and opponent in front of them, reducing flags and shutting down Purdue.
We are going to mark that as 5-for-5 for BadgerNation and the predicted score of 42-3 close enough to move to our Five Keys section to 4-0 on the season. So what are they keys for the Badgers against Ohio State?
1,Joel Stave the playmaker
If managing the game was enough to beat Purdue, it won't be enough to beat Ohio State. Stave must consistently get the pass to an open man when the opportunity presents itself, something that hasn't happened yet in 2013. Stave will also be called on the move the chains on third down. Overall UW looks healthy in this category in 2013 at 52 percent, but UW was only 13 of 30 on third down against Arizona State and Purdue.
Key match-up: Stave vs. senior Ohio State safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. Though the OSU returning defensive players account for only 24 percent of the tackles made in 2012, both safeties have experience. They are both capable of disrupting the timing of Stave in the pocket and of intercepting passes. Stave will rely on wide receiver Jared Abbrederis more than ever.
2, Kenny vs. Braxton
Reports indicate Ohio State will go with Braxton Miller as the starter at QB. This is good news for the Badgers as Kenny Guiton is the more polished passer and would have a better chance to expose UW's young cornerbacks. Key match-up if Miller starts: Miller vs. UW safety Michael Caputo. Caputo will need to be a sure tackler against the hard running QB.
3, Beau Allen in the middle
Allen will need to have a great game for the Badgers if they are to contain Ohio State's offense. The Badgers will want to have linebackers Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong free to contain the running game and make plays against a mobile QB. For that to happen, Allen will need to get some push, even while being double-teamed, and his fellow defensive lineman will need to make a play or two.
So far defensive linemen for UW have only recorded six tackles for loss, with Warren Herring leading at 2.5. Key match-up: Allen vs. OSU Center Corey Linsley. Linsley is a fifth-year senior and a second-year starter at center. Linsley made the move to the inside after originally starting as a tackle. He lacks some athleticism but not strength, and this might be a favorable match up for Allen if he can keep low off the snap.
4, James White on third down
Call it a hunch, but the offensive wrinkle not yet seen from the Badgers in 2013 could involve getting the ball to White via the pass. Stave has yet to demonstrate solid timing with star tight end Jacob Pedersen. In an effort to remove some pressure from Stave while taking advantage of OSU's expectations for the Badgers to run off tackle, screen passes to White might be the answer.
5, Dezmen Southward's time to shine
OSU's style of play will give Southward the chance to be a star on the big stage. Southward has demonstrated big play ability in 2013 with big hits and being in the middle of turnovers. Key match-up: Southward vs. the ball carrier in space. A mobile OSU QB and star running back Jordan Hall (9 TDs and 6.2 yards per carry in 2013) will give Southward the chance to have the game of his life.
First note two keys not mentioned: The Badgers will run the ball on a relatively young OSU secondary and the atmosphere will not influence an experienced Badgers team; many of whose players have played in three Rose Bowls, two Big Ten Championship games and in big night games at Nebraska and Ohio State. If anything the environment might work against an Ohio State team that has yet to be tested by a quality opponent in 2013.
After reviewing the play of both teams so far in 2013 this game looks much closer (on paper) than I originally had projected. Keys two through five above might all fall in the direction of the Badgers. Much will rely on Stave having the best game of his life. One sign would be converting more than 50 percent of third down opportunities in the first half.
Prediction: Wisconsin falls just short in a thrilling game, 27-25. Too many Badgers drives will stall between the 40s and OSU escapes.