1. Emotional Rebound
After such a demoralizing loss last Saturday, it would be fair to question the emotional state of the Badger team. The game against Ohio State has been one that has been circled on the schedule for some time as Wisconsin prepared to host the Buckeyes in a nationally televised night game. Much of the fan base has been subdued since the Michigan defeat, so it will be interesting to see what kind of start we see in the game this week.
On the other hand, perhaps it becomes a rallying point. One never knows with collegiate players.
2. Terrelle Pryor vs. Badger containment
Pryor is a solid thrower and of course, Beanie Wells is a star back when healthy. However, it is the running ability of Pryor that could be the key element in containing the Buckeye offense. In five games (in varying amounts of playing time), Pryor has run for 292 yards and over 6 yards per carry. Turning defensive stops into key big plays simply cannot happen if the Badgers wish to walk away with a win.
3. One Play at a Time
Despite being taken apart by USC, the Buckeyes rank 1st in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing just 252 yards per game. Given the struggles the Badger offense has had in finding consistency as well as showing little big play ability, moving the ball could be a struggle. Can they put together some consistent drives? Beyond the obvious of putting points on the board, stringing together first downs will be vital in maintaining field position.
Look for Paul Chryst to pull out some wrinkles in order to hopefully keep the chains moving.
4. James Laurinaitis vs. Badger Tailbacks
With star linebacker Laurinaitis patrolling the Buckeye defense, there won't be many opportunities for Badger backs to get to the second level. When those opportunities arise, PJ Hill and the other backs need to make it count. In the meantime, they need to get consistent yards after contact in order to keep the down and distance situations manageable.
5. Talent vs. Execution
The Badgers have had quite a bit of success against Ohio State over the years, beating them 4 of the last 7 times the two squads have faced off. Typically, the Buckeyes have had a talent edge, but the Badgers have played stronger fundamental football, often grinding the Buckeyes into submission. With a talent difference again looming, that model will need to be pulled out again if the Badgers hope to win. Avoiding turnovers, not missing tackles, taking advantage of opportunities, and exhibiting superior will be key.
One one hand, I think the senior dominated Badgers will rebound just fine emotionally, provided they don't get down early. However, I have not seen the consistent play to this point that will be needed to beat Ohio State. A lack of playmakers on offense, some inconsistent QB play, lack of depth on the defensive line, and holes in the secondary simply leave too many places for Ohio State to take advantage. Perhaps Pryor will play as a freshman and make some key mistakes, but based on his play to this point, I don't find that terribly likely. I think the Badgers come playing hard, but I also see Ohio State running the ball against a smallish front. Unfortunately, the Badger fans go home demoralized once again, 24-10.