Preview: Living the Night Life

After its conference opener put a wrench into the master plan, No. 17 Wisconsin needs to get its engine running at full steam before its too far out of the conference race.

MADISON – The mood of the Wisconsin players was subdued but still upbeat after its second-half collapse in the team's conference opener. While the senior leaders continued to brush off comments about last week's Michigan game, the Badgers realize that their offense is sputtering and their defense's confidence has been questioned.

A home game in Camp Randall might be just what the doctor ordered.

After one of the more devastating loses in program history, No.17 Wisconsin looks to get back on track this Saturday when No.12 Ohio State makes its first trip to Camp Randall in five years.

The Badgers have won 27 of their last 28 games at Camp Randall, including 16 straight victories, and are a perfect 16-0 under head coach Bret Bielema. If the Badgers needed more good home vibes, Wisconsin has won 21 of its 22 night games, including a 17-10 upset victory over then-No. 3 Buckeyes in 2003, snapped their 19-game winning streak.

"(The night environment) gets us pumped up because the whole stadium is filled up around the time we step out on to the field," said running back P.J. Hill, who will be facing the Buckeyes for the first time. "It's not early and you get that blood rushing, get more time for warm ups to get yourself right and your mind right and get yourself ready to play."

Despite returning seven starters and 10 players that received considerable reps last season, the Badger offense has been stagnate to say the least, an issue that is costing Wisconsin points and games, as Badger fans saw on Saturday.

In 17 possessions against Michigan, Wisconsin (3-1) scored only six times and just once in the second half. The woes did not start a week ago, however, as the Badgers scored just 13 points in 12 possessions in their three-point win against Fresno State.

"We had too many mistakes, too my critical errors and we weren't executing like we practiced," fullback Chris Pressley said of the offense. "I seriously thought (offensively) that we would be much further along at this point in the season. That needs to happen sooner than later."

But while the offense struggles, the defense remains confident, which was reinforced when they watch film against the Wolverines. On Saturday, the Wisconsin defense was on the field for 68 defensive plays and in 65 of those plays, the Badger defense gave up 150 yards (2.2 yards per play) and one touchdown. In those other three plays, the Badgers surrendered 118 yards (39.3 per play) and two touchdowns.

"(The game) really came down to a couple of plays that just beat us," Levy said. "We said this whole season that a big play would evidentially beat us and it did. Sixty-some plays were good but those others were just horrible."

Without question, the Buckeyes have seen the same film and are at full strength heading into Madison on Saturday. After missing the last three games with a toe injury, Chris ‘Beanie' Wells rushed for 106 yards in the Buckeyes 34-21 victory over Minnesota last weekend.

Wisconsin fans may cringe when thinking about last year's UW-Ohio State game, as the Badgers allowed Wells to have touchdown runs of 31, 30 and 23 yards all in the second half and, just like last week, erased a second-half Wisconsin lead.

The Badgers also will have to contend with freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Buckeyes since 1978. His youth hasn't showed thus far, throwing for four touchdowns in a win over Troy and then throwing one and running for 97 yards and two more scores last Saturday in a 34-21 victory over Minnesota.

With Wells bringing his smash-mouth running style and Pryor being a duel-threat in the backfield, the Buckeyes, in five games this season, have registered 21 offensive plays that have gone for 18 yards or more, an aspect the Badgers are going to have to contain.

"We can provide a spark for the offense," Wells said of himself and Pryor. "It's great to have a quarterback like that. Our backfield creates a lot of space for offensive success."

With the offense finding its rhythm, the defensive captains know that it's up to them to set the tone in order for the Badgers to avoid their first 0-2 start in the Big Ten since the start of the 2002 season.

"You have to get that it's only one loss and you have eight more games left and you have to get ready to play, especially against Ohio State," defensive end O'Brien Schofield said. "They are a really good opponent and we can't go in there with any baggage."

No.14 Ohio State (4-1) vs. No.18 Wisconsin (3-1)

Date/Time - Saturday, October 4 at 7:00 p.m. CT

Arena – Camp Randall (80,321)

Television - ABC (Mike Patrick, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)

Series – Ohio State leads 51-17-5

Last Meeting – Ohio State won, 38-17, on Nov. 3, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.

Notes:

Ohio State leads the series 24-10-2 in Madison, but the Badgers have won four of the last seven meetings between the teams and Wisconsin is the only Big Ten school with a winning record against Jim Tressel (3-2).

In the 2003 victory, backup quarterback Matt Schabert's 79-yard TD pass to Lee Evans with 5:20 left in the game broke a 10-10 tie.

This will be the third time in the last four meetings between the teams that both squads are ranked, with UW winning the previous two games (2003 and 2004).

UW tight ends coach Joe Rudolph was on Ohio State's staff from 2004-06.

Ohio State is 25-12 away from home in high games since 1959 and 31-13 in night games all-times. Ohio State is 59-32-5 in conference road openers (4-3 under Tressel) and are 21-7 (.750) in Big Ten road games overall.

Prediction

If this game was on the road, Ohio State would run all over Wisconsin and its stagnate offense. Move the game to Camp Randall and for whatever the reason, the Badgers seemingly come alive. The Badgers need to find some type of offense and move the ball against the Buckeyes. Otherwise, it's going to be a long evening.

Ohio State looks sound on both sides of the football, especially when they are at 100 percent on offense. Chris Wells is a top-tier running back and his numbers the last two years prove that. The X-factor is freshman Terrelle Pryor, who has shown that he has all the playmaking skills to be a top college quarterback in his first two starts (both victories). However, those two wins came against sun-standard opponents in the daylight, as the Badgers' night-time atmosphere will be the youngster's toughest challenge yet.

Wisconsin has maintained that its so close to be a great team and all the Badgers have to do is fix ‘the little things.' The night time aura of Camp Randall (winners of 21 of 22) is one of the main reasons the Buckeyes are only 1.5-point favorites. Don't forget though that the Vest is pretty good in road games himself.

This game is going to come down to the wire and is a virtual coin flip for me. Personally, I just don't see Wisconsin getting over last week's huge disappointment and the Buckeyes are going to win a tight one, further complicating Wisconsin's problems.

Ohio State 23, Wisconsin 20

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 3-1

Against the Spread: 3-1


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