Wisconsin-Ohio State preview

The Badgers and Buckeyes kick things off at 8 p.m. CDT, Saturday, Oct. 11

Buckeyes offense v

Buckeyes offense v. Badgers defense

Ohio State projected startersWisconsin projected starters
QB Craig Krenzel (Sr. 6-4, 225) DE Darius Jones (Jr. 6-3, 268)
WR Michael Jenkins (Sr. 6-5, 215) DT Anttaj Hawthorne (Jr. 6-3, 300)
WR Drew Carter (Sr. 6-4, 200)DT Jason Jefferson (Jr. 6-3, 307)
FB Branden Joe (Jr. 6-0, 245) DE Jonathan Welsh (Jr. 6-4, 228)
TB Maurice Hall (Jr. 5-10, 200) LB Chris Catalano (Jr. 6-1, 206)
LT Rob Sims (So. 6-4, 305) LB Jeff Mack (Sr. 6-0, 244)
LG Adrien Clarke (Sr. 6-5, 330) LB Alex Lewis (Sr. 6-1, 237)
C Alex Stepanovich (Sr. 6-4, 300) CB Scott Starks (Jr. 5-10, 168)
RG Bryce Bishop (Sr. 6-3, 312) SS Ryan Aiello (Sr. 6-1, 196)
RT Shane Olivea (Sr. 6-5, 320) FS Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)
TE Ben Hartsock (Sr. 6-4, 264) CB Levonne Rowan (So. 6-1, 178)

Key reserves

Ohio State: TB Lydell Ross (Jr. 6-1, 210), TE Ryan Hamby (So. 6-5, 240), WR Roy Hall (Fr. 6-3, 228), QB Scott McMullen (Sr. 6-3, 215), WR Santonio Holmes (Fr. 5-11, 170), WR Chris Gamble (Jr. 6-2, 200).

Wisconsin: LB LaMarr Watkins (So. 6-1, 216), DE Joe Monty (Fr. 6-2, 246), DT/DE Nick Cochart (Sr. 6-1, 267), DT Kalvin Barrett (Jr. 6-2, 316), DT Lyle Maiava (So. 6-2, 294), LB Kareem Timbers (Jr. 6-3, 209), LB Elliot Goode (So. 6-2, 240), LB Kyle McCorison (Sr. 6-0, 242).

When the Buckeyes have the ball…

Will he or won't he?

Ohio State is hoping that its moribund offense can get off the ground this week. The Buckeyes two weeks of preparation paid off nicely here, with gritty quarterback Craig Krenzel and superb center Alex Stepanovich getting healthy. The team also expects the rest helped rejuvenate tailbacks Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall, who have struggled to produce this season, raising the specter of Maurice Clarett's ever-conspicuous absence from the team.

Finally, however, the Buckeyes will likely look for a boost from Chris Gamble, who starred as a full-time player in Ohio State's national title run last year. Gamble has been shifted to focusing on cornerback while also returning kicks and punts. This week, however, there has been avid talk that Gamble could play on offense as well. Last season Gamble caught 31 passes for 499 yards and ran three times for 49 yards. This year his offensive line reads one carry, 15 yards.

Craig Krenzel
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Though the Buckeyes have struggled offensively, there are plenty of weapons here, starting with Krenzel, who is as tough and determined as any quarterback at any level. Krenzel makes few mistakes and always comes up with the big play at the end of games. He just finds a way to win.

The Buckeyes will try to establish the run with Ross and Hall pounding behind a solid and veteran offensive line. The go-to guy in the passing game is receiver Michael Jenkins, who had 1,076 yards last year and has 341 so far this season. The Buckeyes also throw frequently to tight ends Ben Hartsock and Ryan Hamby.

The Badgers should matchup well with the Buckeyes offense. Though Ohio State will pull some tricks out of the bag and will spread the field at times, the Buckeyes will more often than not play straight forward physical football and look for their playmakers to provide a spark when needed. Wisconsin's defense is set up for this type of game.

Scott Starks
(UW Athletics)
Wisconsin's defensive line has done a nice job of getting penetration against the run in recent weeks and should do a solid job against the Buckeyes front five. The Badgers run defense will depend in part on linebacker Jeff Mack's health. His very presence, though, is a boon for Wisconsin.

The Badgers corners have displayed marked improvement the past two weeks, but will be challenged by Jenkins and Drew Carter. It will be interesting to see whether Scott Starks, who may be playing the best ball of his career right now, or the taller Levonne Rowan, will be matched up with the 6-5 Jenkins.

Wisconsin struggled to slow down Penn State's tight ends, making the matchup with Hartsock and Hamby one to watch.

Badgers offense v. Buckeyes defense

Wisconsin projected startersOhio State projected starters
QB Jim Sorgi (Sr. 6-5, 190) DE Simon Fraser (Jr. 6-6, 265)
TB Dwayne Smith (So. 5-11, 225)DT Darrion Scott (Sr. 6-3, 280)
FB Matt Bernstein (So. 6-2, 273) DT Tim Anderson (Sr. 6-4, 289)
WR Lee Evans (Sr. 5-11, 202) DE Will Smith (Sr. 6-4, 265)
WR Bran. Williams (So. 5-11, 170) LB A.J. Hawk (So. 6-2, 230)
LT Morgan Davis (Jr. 6-5, 326) LB Fred Pagac, Jr. (Sr. 6-1, 225)
LG Dan Buenning (Jr. 6-4, 298) LB Robert Reynolds (Sr. 6-3, 244)
C Donovan Raiola (So. 6-3, 290) CB Dustin Fox (Jr. 6-0, 190)
RG J. Clinkscale (Jr. 6-3, 308) SS Will Allen (Sr. 6-2, 190)
RT Mike Lorenz (So. 6-5, 313) FS Nate Salley (So. 6-3, 205)
TE Tony Paciotti (Jr. 6-4, 263) CB Chris Gamble (Jr. 6-2, 200)

Key reserves

Wisconsin: TB Booker Stanley (Fr. 5-10, 207), Anthony Davis (Jr. 5-8, 191), WR/TE Owen Daniels (So. 6-3, 213), WR Jonathan Orr (So. 6-3, 190), WR Darrin Charles (Jr. 6-6, 210), TE Jason Pociask (So. 6-3, 250), WR Ernest Mason (Fr. 5-11, 180), WR Brandon White (So. 6-3, 182), OT/TE Joe Thomas (Fr. 6-8, 280).

Ohio State: DT Marcus Green (So. 6-3, 290), FS Brandon Mitchell (Fr. 6-3, 190), LB Bobby Carpenter (So. 6-3, 240), LB Mike D'Andrea (So. 6-3, 240), DE Mike Kudla (So. 6-3, 255), DT Quinn Pitcock (Fr. 6-4, 285), CB Ashton Youboty (Fr. 6-1, 185), DL David Patterson (Fr. 6-3, 285)

When Wisconsin has the ball…

Buckeyes defense
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Marquee matchups abound. Front and center is Wisconsin's absolutely dominating running game versus Ohio State's absolutely dominating run defense. The Buckeyes may be without the services of defensive tackle Darrion Scott, but his replacement, Marcus Green, is another solid player in the Buckeyes arsenal.

Regardless of who receives the bulk of Wisconsin's carries—there is no definitive word as to the status of Anthony Davis and Dwayne Smith—expect the Badgers to run early and often, challenging the best running defense in the country.

The line battle is only part of the running game contest, of course. Ohio State's linebackers and safeties do a fantastic job of filling against the run, making Wisconsin fullback Matt Bernstein and tight end/H-back Jason Pociask invaluable for Badgers success.

The Buckeye to watch is linebacker A.J. Hawk, who leads the team with 47 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. He is also tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Bernstein and Pociask will be entrusted with keeping him off Davis/Smith/Booker Stanley.

Tight end Tony Paciotti often takes on opponents defensive ends and will be going up against some dandies in Will Smith and Simon Fraser.

Where the Badgers are at a distinct disadvantage is in pass blocking. The offensive line has been very good in this respect for the most part, but has had some glaring breakdowns, and the past two weeks solid edge rushers have had success getting pressure, and hits, on quarterback Jim Sorgi. Few teams in the nation can bring pressure from their front four like Ohio State can and the Buckeyes will bring additional pressure with the blitz.

As if the trench battle were not enough, there are more matchups of seemingly unstoppable forces in this game. Wisconsin receivers Lee Evans and Brandon Williams have been close to uncoverable this season. This week they face a pair of cornerbacks, Chris Gamble and Dustin Fox, who flat out shut people down and will make the Badgers pay for any mistakes. Just for good measure, starting strong safety Will Allen can cover like a corner, giving the Buckeyes significant flexibility when the Badgers go to a three-wide offense. Opponents have thrown for 229.6 yards per game against Ohio State, but are averaging a piddling 5.1 yards per attempt.

Special Teams matchup

Wisconsin specialistsOhio State specialists
P R.J. Morse (Jr. 6-1, 246) B.J. Sander (Sr. 6-3, 212)
PK Mike Allen (Jr. 6-2, 186)Mike Nugent (Jr. 5-10, 170)
KO Scott Campbell (Sr. 6-0, 245)Nugent
KR Brandon Williams (So. 5-11, 170) Chris Gamble (Jr. 6-2, 200)
PR Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)Gamble
LS Matt Katula (Jr. 6-6, 282) Kyle Andrews (Jr. 5-11, 245)
H Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203) Sander

Wisconsin's special teams enter this game riding high after a very successful outing against Penn State. Brandon Williams and Jim Leonhard had big returns for the Badgers, who also caused a pair of fumbles on Nittany Lion returns. Still, the team turned to squib kicks because of its inability to cover deep kickoffs and it will be interesting to see whether this becomes a trend. The Buckeyes' Gamble is an electrifying athlete, but opponents have held him completely under wraps as both a kick and punt returner.

Ohio State has one of the best kicking pairs in the nation in Mike Nugent and B.J. Sander and the team has done a fantastic job covering kicks, allowing just 6.6 yards per punt return and 15.1 yards per kick return.

BadgerNation.com forecast

This game has everything one could ask for. Two rated opponents in an early season Big Ten bout, the Buckeyes 19-game winning streak on the line at Camp Randall Stadium. The matchups on either side of the ball are extremely close, with few advantages for either team to exploit. It is cliché, but it will be a matter of execution come Saturday. Turnovers will be huge, but more important will be resiliency. Each of these teams will make plays and will give each other their best shots. The team that stays aggressive and stands up the strongest when momentum appears to be slipping away will be the team that walks away with a win Saturday night.

Jim Sorgi (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
When push comes to shove expect a lot of stalemates. The Badgers will be able to run the football, but will not approach the success they have had in their first two Big Ten games. Quarterback Jim Sorgi does not need to be a world beater, but he will have to hit some big throws throughout the game to keep drives alive.

The Buckeyes need to establish a running game to help out Krenzel, but in the end Ohio State will turn to its veteran quarterback and put the game on his shoulders. Expect the Buckeyes to take a shot to Jenkins early and go back to him at key junctures. How Starks and Rowan defend the first attempts downfield will set the tone.

All week long the talk has been of lining it up, best-against-best and seeing who comes out on top. However, each of these teams will likely throw in a little chicanery to try to break through.

This should be Big Ten football at its finest. Wisconsin's offense, in particular its running game, has gotten the job done in the fourth quarter this season, and that trend will continue Saturday. This game appears destined to come down to the last possession, and in the end, the Badgers will make just a few more plays, the ones needed to move to 3-0 in conference play.

Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Ohio State 17

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