After a much needed bye week and a return to the AP top-10, Wisconsin once again faces a difficult test ahead of them with its third straight top-10 showdown, this one coming against No.2 Ohio State at Camp Randall Stadium.
Sitting at a perfect 5-0, the Buckeyes are without a doubt one of the best teams in the nation. All eyes will be on Madison with ESPN’s College Gameday in town for a primetime kickoff to see if Wisconsin can surge back into the College Football Playoff discussion or if Ohio State can handle its toughest test of the season.
Here is a closer look at the Buckeyes.
Like most offenses, the group is led by the quarterback and Urban Meyer has a good one with Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett leading the charge. The junior truly is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback, evident this season by his dominance on the ground as a rushing threat (68.4 yards per game and tied for the team lead with four rushing TDs) and looking poised throwing down field.
Despite the potential to throw the errant interception (Barrett has thrown three this season), the do-it-all quarterback has already thrown for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, while maintaining a 166.6 quarterback efficiency rating. Barrett has also not been afraid to go deep (despite critics saying otherwise), having his longest completion of the season go for 79 yards.
In regards to receiving options, Barrett will have plenty of speedy, elusive targets to throw to at multiple positions. Ohio State’s two leading receivers in terms of yardage are actually listed as running backs in Curtis Samuel (345 yards) and Dontre Wilson (189). This is a testament to Meyer finding a way to utilizing the most athletic players on his roster. Samuel is explosive, averaging 8.2 yards per carry and 82 yards per game. After getting only nine carries last week, Samuel will likely see more work against Wisconsin.
The team’s leading receiving scorer comes in the form of redshirt sophomore Noah Brown, who has five touchdowns (four against Oklahoma) and has impressed many with his playmaking abilities. Facing good coverage, Brown may not be the best receiver in terms of getting wide open on his routes but will challenge anyone for a ball thrown his way. Brown and tight end Marcus Baugh are noticeable scoring threats.
On the ground, former Michigan commit Mike Weber leads Ohio State in his first campaign as the starting tailback. Weber has already rushed for 566 yards in five games, while also scoring a team-leading four rushing touchdowns. Besides Barrett, Weber is someone to watch and seems to fly a little under the radar. A good north-south runner with vision, burst and acceleration, Weber is at his best between the tackles but is capable of running away from defenders and getting the corner. He's a very good pass receiver, is comfortable running routes and catching the ball, but we have not had a chance to see him in pass protection much.
With an offense averaging over 52 points per game, Ohio State’s defense hasn’t received the amount of attention it undoubtedly deserves to receive. Without a senior in the two-deep depth chart, Ohio State ranks No. 1 in red-zone defense (7 of 12, 58.3 percent), No. 2 nationally in points allowed (10.8 per game), No. 4 in yards allowed (246.4) and No. 9 against the run (97.8), in addition to being the only FBS team that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
Considering Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown four interceptions in his last two games, Ohio State’s defense must be licking its chops. The Buckeyes have forced an impressive 10 interceptions in just five games, with redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker leading the bunch with four and Marshon Lattimore close behind with three. Not only does Ohio State ball hawk, the Buckeyes have taken back four interceptions for touchdowns. The ability to quickly change the momentum of the game and quiet a loud crowd, like the ones at Camp Randall, has been critical to Ohio State’s success for many years.
Others to definitely watch include linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who leads the team with 33 tackles, and defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who leads the team with three sacks. The Buckeyes’ defense is talented from top to bottom and are loaded with high-caliber players, making them one of the best nationally.