BadgerNation had a solid week with our prediction of a 35-10 victory over Minnesota. Most of the assumptions were based on David Cobb not playing and not him playing and running well. BadgerNation identified the poor quarterback play from Mitch Leidner and the excellent punting from Minnesota, which would force UW QB’s to patient on long drives. Wisconsin’s scoring drives were all 69 yards or longer.
On to the tilt with Ohio State.
1, Who is Healthier?
This is obvious, but unavoidable. Initially this looked like a big advantage for Wisconsin with Ohio State is down to preseason third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, but there are now a number of questions on the UW side of the ball with tailbacks Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement, safety Michael Caputo and center Dan Voltz all with potential injuries. As last week demonstrated with the Gophers’ Cobb, the true state is unknown. This is a substantial variable for a late season slug fest.
2, Ohio State Against the Run
Surprisingly Ohio State is not a strong defensive team. The Buckeyes have surrendered 35 points to Virginia Tech in a loss and 37, 27 and 28 in victories over Michigan State, Indiana and Michigan, respectively. MSU average 5.2 yards per rushing attempt (and probably should have rushed for more). Indiana gained 285 yards rushing against OSU, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt. There is no doubt that teams can run the ball against OSU, which is ranked 41st in NCAA rushing defense. The question will be how well UW can take advantage of a defense stacked to stop Melvin Gordon and Co.
It might be a bit unfair to place this burden strictly on Costigan, but the senior right guard just earned some all-conference honors and my hunch is that Bosa, OSU’s star defensive lineman, will line up over the Badgers’ right side. Bosa is only seventh for the Buckeyes in total tackles (another stat showing how rushing works against OSU) but has 13.5 sacks. If the Badgers are to exploit a stacked defense, then Joel Stave needs to be kept upright. This might be the key matchup of the game.
4, Wild Card One: Cardale Jones
Jones is a drop-back passing quarterback. After subbing for the injured J.T. Barrett at the end of the Michigan game, Jones attempted only three passes. There is little doubt that UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will give the unproven QB as many different looks along the line of scrimmage as possible. In Aranda’s scheme that works out to a very large number. Don’t be surprised if a UW defensive back who doesn’t see large amounts of playing time (Leo Musso, Devin Gaulden, etc) gets called on to blitz. Wisconsin is vulnerable to a pinpoint passer. That doesn’t seem to be Jones, though evidence, in either direction, is slight.
5, Wild Card Two: Tanner McEvoy
I don’t expect McEvoy to get more than a dozen snaps, but OSU has been very vulnerable to an option attack this year. Navy gained almost 400 rushing yards running strictly option plays. McEvoy could prove to be an effective runner near midfield when the yards-to-gain are under 10.
Fearless prediction: All of the variables should make for an exciting and, frankly, unpredictable game. The good news for the Badgers is that can rely on the field goal kicker (OSU’s Sean Nuernberger is only 10 for 16 field goal attempts and 5 for 10 beyond 30 yards). Wisconsin wins 35-33in a thriller.