Tomorrow night the Wisconsin Badgers come to town for a night game at Ohio Stadium. Technically, Ohio State has played four games already, but I think their season really starts tomorrow.
Wisconsin is a perennial power that has been the Big Ten’s representative in the Rose Bowl for the last three seasons. Last year, the Buckeyes and the Badgers played a bruising game up in Madison that Ohio State won in overtime, 21-14. It was a defensive struggle in which Wisconsin throttled Ohio State’s high-powered offense and held it to only 236 yards. That game was a good representation of what Wisconsin always seems to bring to the table. On offense, the Badgers are known for handing the ball to a gaggle a fine running backs who pound you behind a huge, corn-fed offensive line and mixing that diet of hard-nosed running in with an occasional pass. On defense, the Badgers will pressure and hit and try to rattle their opponents, physically and mentally.
Wisconsin’s performance this year suggests that tomorrow’s game may be different — or maybe not. The Badgers’ quarterback, sophomore Joel Stave, has thrown for six touchdowns, including three to fine receiver Jared Abbrederis. But in last week’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, Wisconsin ran for a mind-boggling 388 yards on their way to pulverizing the Boilermakers, 41-10. Ohio State’s defense has played against spread offense, quick-throw teams so far this year. Tomorrow night, they had better be ready for up-the-gut football with an opponent that would like nothing better than to derail the Buckeyes’ national championship aspirations.
When the Buckeyes are on offense, the big issue will be how quarterback Braxton Miller plays. After missing two full games and most of a third with an injury — and watching back-up Kenny Guiton break a number of Ohio State offensive records on the way — Miller will be trying to reestablish himself as the premier quarterback and offensive weapon in the Big Ten. He’ll also be looking to use every arsenal in the multi-faceted Ohio State attack. With power runner Carlos Hyde back in the backfield after a three-game suspension, along with fellow running backs Jordan Hall and freshman Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott, Miller has plenty of options in the ground game, and Guiton has shown that Devin Smith, Corey Brown, Chris Fields, and Evan Spencer can catch and run for quick scores.
Tomorrow night’s game will answer a lot of questions about this Buckeye team. Can their defense handle a team that plays the prototypical Big Ten power game? How does the Buckeyes offensive speed match up against a big-time opponent that will tackle hard and do whatever it can to force turnovers. We’ll see tomorrow night, and I’ll be there are the Horseshoe to see it. I can’t wait!