1. Defense Cannot Rest
Statistically speaking, there is very little that separates the Wisconsin and Ohio State offense. They have similar results in all of the major categories. The big difference in the teams is on defense. While the Badgers have played well the last couple weeks, they are clearly well below the Buckeye defense on paper considering that the Bucks have the best defense in the nation statistically. The Badger defense must be the key component if the Badgers are to make a run. They must match the performance of the OSU defense for four quarters.
2. Red Dog
Much like last week, the defense opposing the Badgers values putting pressure on the quarterback. The Buckeyes are a blitz heavy defense that ranks 16th in the nation in sacks. Meanwhile, the Badgers offense has fared moderately well against the blitz this year, but still ranks just 68th in terms of sacks allowed. The Badgers must not only handle the blitz, but also make OSU pay for their aggressive approach. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has not utilized Travis Beckum much down the seam, but this may be the game where the home run ball must come into play.
3. Buckeye First Downs
The Buckeyes average 6.7 yards per play on first down. With the accuracy, efficiency, and poise of QB Todd Boeckman, the Badger defense simply will not be effective if they do not force the Buckeyes into poor down and distance situations. First down is the key to making them one-dimensional.
4. Getting Chunks
The Badger offense is predicated on the run and the short passing game. The problem is that OSU allows just 4.5 yards per pass, an outstanding total. The Badgers must either stretch the field with Kyle Jefferson and Travis Beckum and/or break some tackles to get some serious chunks of yardage (which again goes back to pass protection).
5. Weathering the Storm
Jim Tressel has not had a lot of success against the Badgers and the Buckeyes have not beaten Wisconsin since 2002. As the #1 team in the nation, they will look to throw the knockout blow early. Ohio State has also outscored their opponents 90-9 in the first quarter, so fast starts have been the norm. Wisconsin must make it a four quarter game and take their chances down the stretch.
I think the Buckeyes can be had, but I just have trouble seeing the personnel on this Wisconsin squad to make this likely. I think the Badger defense can hang in there, but feel the offense will struggle. QB play will be key and I haven't seen enough consistency from Tyler Donovan to keep his team moving against a tremendous, deep, and healthy defense. If Wisconsin gets down early, I think it will wind up very similar to the Penn State game. Their defense must keep them in the game with a score in the low teens while the Badgers will need some big game-changing type plays. Prediction: OSU jumps up early and the Badgers never threaten: 24-10 Buckeyes.