The day Badger fans and players have been waiting for all season has finally approached. The defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes storm into Camp Randall stadium this Saturday evening and will give the Badgers their toughest competition this season. The Buckeyes have disappointed Badger fans quite a bit by winning their last three meetings in Madison. Ohio State also comes in having won its last 19 games overall.
Looking at all the weapons Ohio State has, one knows that the Big Ten does not get any bigger than this. With three Lombardi Award potentials, all eyes will be on Buckeyes' highly acclaimed defensive line.
Seniors Will Smith, Darrion Scott, and Tim Anderson are the Lombardi hopefuls. Add junior Simon Fraser to the mix, and you have the foundation of one of the toughest defenses in the NCAA. So far this season the Buckeyes have only given up 217 yards and 15.4 points a game.
The Badgers have depended on their running game in recent weeks and have seen excellent results—they are now averaging 222.5 yards a game and have 14 rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the Buckeye defense is first nationally against the rush. Their defense is only allowing 43.4 yards per game and 1.5 yards per carry. The battle between Wisconsin's offensive line and Ohio State's defensive line will be the one to watch this weekend.
"That gets us even more fired up," junior tight end Tony Paciotti said. "Our offensive line has been blocking unbelievable and our statistics show it. And our backs have been running really hard. We don't expect anything different. Ohio State is another team just coming in. If we just do our jobs and no mental errors and we come to play I don't see any problems."
The Badgers will look to their offensive line, juniors Jonathan Clinkscale, Dan Buenning, Morgan Davis and Mike Lorenz and sophomore Donovan Raiola, to continue creating opportunities in order to keep their running game successful against the Big Ten's premier defense. Though it will be a challenge for the offensive line, they do not plan on making any changes in order to continue thriving with the running game.
"We have to just keep pounding," Buenning said. "We have to do what we do best and that's running the ball. We can use different backs in different situations, but we have to just keep after it and don't quit on them."
Last season the Buckeyes came into Camp Randall for the homecoming game and defeated the Badgers 19-14. Clinkscale and Buenning played last season and feel no pressure going up against the dangerous defense or playing against the national champions in general.
(Elsa, Getty Images)
"That really doesn't bother me (that they're the defending national champions)," Clinkscale said. "Every game you play you have to be ready to play, no matter who it is, no matter what, you just have to be ready."
"I'm feeling like I want to go out and play them," Buenning said. "We played them pretty good last year and now that we're a year older we just want to go out and do what we can do. We're not really too worried about them. I know they're going to play, I'm just worried about myself."
As for Raiola, he was not active in last year's game so this will be his first test against the vaunted Buckeyes.
"Personally I'm pretty scared," Raiola said. "But you know we just have to go out there and play it like any other game. I mean it's just another game, another week of the season. And you know we definitely have to go out there and play as hard as we can."
Though the Buckeyes aren't looking to back down anytime soon, there is one member of the defensive line in question for the game. Darrion Scott sat out against Northwestern with an ankle injury and could see limited playing time against the Badgers.
"Darrion Scott I would put in the questionable category" Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "I wouldn't call him doubtful, but I don't know that we could say this early that he would be at 100 percent come game time. And a lot of times with those injuries, that last couple days leading up to the game, there's some great healing that goes on. So he'll definitely be with us. Exactly how much he'll play, I think we haven't determined."
Despite the possible absence of Scott, the Badgers' offensive line knows that they cannot take the game lightly. The defense will still be strong, making it tough for any offense to get through.
"They're pretty deep," Clinkscale said. "They have some pretty solid backups so I don't think Scott being gone will affect the game that much."
"We approach everything as if he is playing," Raiola said. "I don't think it will affect their team. Every guy they put in there is there for a reason. They're at Ohio State for a reason, they just don't get there because they're an average player, and they're all good players. So it doesn't really matter who you're playing against you just have to go up there and do your job."
Whether Scott is a factor or not, it is certain that the Buckeye defensive line is going to challenge every play from the Badger offense. If the cardinal and white are able to overcome the spectacular Buckeye defense and continue with their successful rushing offense, the Ohio State winning streak could see its demise.