Check out this week's college football game of the week, a very interesting matchup between two Big Ten teams.We know that both Louisiana State and Georgia are going to figure prominently in the hunt for an SEC title -- and, by extension, the National Championship -- but the same can’t be said for teams out of the Big Ten. There’s a lot of uncertainty about the real quality of the conference, preseason rankings aside, because the first month of the season has shown us little but the ability of a lot of supposedly-talented Big Ten teams beating up on the likes of Florida A&M, who is in nobody’s list of football superpowers. That’s why the Game of the Week this week is out of the Big Ten:
23 Wisconsin @ 4 Ohio StateCoverage: Sunday September 29, 10.00 a.m. on ESPN2 & ESPN2-HD. Check our TV guide for details on all the college football on Aussie screens this week.
There’s so much to learn out of this game. From the top: will Ohio State’s Heisman hopeful QB Braxton Miller reclaim his starting spot from backup Kenny Guiton, who has been playing out of his mind?
Can the Buckeye defense, which really hasn’t been tested, stand up against the fleet of brilliant Wisconsin running backs?
Can Wisconsin’s QB Joel Stave make enough big throws to keep OSU off balance defensively and perhaps exploit their weak secondary? Will either defense really have an impact on this game?
Ohio State’s Quarterback(s)
You’d assume that Miller will come back in as soon as he’s ready to go, because he’s a prodigious, game-changing talent, but on how short a leash he’ll be on now that Guiton’s proven to be red-hot, we don’t yet know.
It must be nice for Urban Meyer to have such a wealth of talent at the key offensive position. Guiton’s been a major revelation, a veteran senior who has never started a game until this year. It seemed like Disaster Central when Miller went down, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as we first thought.
Wisconsin’s Running Back(s)
Wisconsin have perhaps the best one-two-three set of backs in the country, led by the brilliant Melvin Gordon. They are big, strong, agile, don’t seem to mind dragging defenders with them…and are going to be hard to stop. I think they can roll up yards against anyone in the Big Ten. That’s how good they are.
One thing that doesn’t exactly work in their favour is the noted struggles that Wisconsin’s QB Joel Stave has been having. More on this below, but, suffice to say he’s not a major threat hurling the pigskin, so if Ohio State stack the box it’ll be tougher to get yards. Wisconsin might have to get creative: run the ball out to the boundaries; maybe a toss play or a pitch or something to try and get these guys in space. Watch out, if they find it.
I’ve barely seen the Badger quarterback make a good throw all season, and he figures to be under a stack more pressure this week than he’s seen so far. He needs to be relied upon to make big throws at big times in games, and there’s not a wealth of evidence suggesting he can do so.
Some of his attempts against Purdue were cringe-worthy bad. But Ohio State’s secondary seems vulnerable, and he might therefore be able to turn that to his advantage. A few good throws deep, some play action stuff, that’s all you need, just to try and make the defense respect both the run and the throw. If Stave can air it out with success, getting guys like WR Jared Abrederis into the game, the Buckeyes are going to have less personnel to deal with stopping the run.
Ohio State’s defense hasn’t had to do much of anything against their early opponents, which leaves us not knowing a lot about their capabilities. Friends of mine who are Ohio State fans are concerned about their secondary, which will be defending the deep ball against a quarterback in Stave who hasn’t shown much ability throwing it. Then there’s the run game to be combatted thirty or forty plays this game.
And Wisconsin figure to have their hands full stopping an Ohio State offense that -- granted, against inferior opposition -- has been all sorts of unstoppable so far this year. Even so, Guiton or Miller is plenty good enough to make big plays against the best defense they’ll have seen in 2013. The duel threat factor is what weighs big in my opinion. Ohio State have it, Wisconsin don’t and it’s tough to stop.
In a game where defense will be at a premium, a turnover might be enormous.
Home Field Advantage
Never underestimate the home crowd’s ability to sway the game. One hundred thousand Buckeye fans are going to be falling out of their skins in this one. Ohio Stadium is one of the great college environments. Saturday night there’ll be an electric atmosphere under lights, with a national -- international! -- television audience watching on.
It’s going to be tough on the Wisconsin offense when so many people are screaming their lungs out whenever they’re on the field. It matters.
If things go to plan, Ohio State – though only just, I think. For mine, it comes down to what Wisconsin can (and, also, can’t) do offensively. I don’t trust Stave to make enough big plays at the business end of the game. Therefore, Ohio State can lock down on the Badger running backs, and snuff Wisconsin out that way. As for the Buckeyes when they have the ball, I figure Guiton or Miller is going to move the football enough to eek out a win.
Buckeyes by seven.
About the Author
Andrew is a huge hockey and football fan, residing in Sydney when he’s not travelling around America visiting NHL arenas and watching college football. You can follow him on Twitter at @akitchener and visit his personal blog which includes features on travel, US sports media, movies and more.