The Ohio State Buckeyes will officially begin conference play, and it starts with the Wisconsin Badgers. It will be another home game for the 3-0 Buckeyes after their 77-21 win over Toledo, the 2-1 Badgers are coming in after a 66-7 win over New Mexico State. It will be a night game in “The Shoe”, on September 24, so who comes up with the victory?
The Buckeyes currently have the best offense in the nation, averaging 565.3 yards per game. When it comes to passing yards, they are ranked eighth with 1,075, while leading the nation in passing touchdowns with 12. Quarterback C.J. Stroud has been playing at an extremely high level so far this season, completing 62-of-85 passes for 941 yards, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions. The offense got Jaxon Smith-Njigba back last week after suffering an injury early on in their game against Notre Dame. Smith-Njigba is a huge playmaker for the offense, but in his absence, the deep receiving room stepped up. Marvin Harrison Jr. has been a go-to target for Stroud with 18 receptions for 342 yards and five touchdowns, with Emeka Egbuka right there with 20 receptions for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
This high-powered passing attack will now be going against a Badgers secondary without their top cornerback in Alexander Smith, as well as safety Hunter Wohler. The passing defense has been decent so far for Wisconsin, allowing only an average of 170 yards per game. They have forced seven interceptions so far, each by seven different players. Safety John Torchio is one of them, with his interception being returned for a 100-yard pick-six. The walk-on also has 11 tackles, a sack, and two defended passes. While their passing defense has been good, they haven’t faced a team like Ohio State yet. If Ohio State can’t find success through the air, they can easily flip the script and run the ball. They showed they could do this against Notre Dame when they ran the ball 35 times for 172 yards. TreVeyon Henderson left the game against Toledo with an undisclosed injury, but it is not considered to be long-term and should be good for the game. Behind him is Miyan Williams. Through three games, Williams leads Ohio State in rushing yards with 207 on 32 attempts. Once again though, Wisconsin has been sound with their run defense allowing only 76 yards per game.
Just like this will be the first massive test for Wisconsin defensively, it will be a huge test for the Buckeyes defense. Ohio State struggled against the run last year, which led to the hire of Jim Knowles. The run defense has improved mightily, allowing only 84.3 yards per game, even with pulling starters early due to blowout games. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg leads the team in tackles with 19, with safety Lathan Ransom right behind him with 17. This week though will be their toughest running back they have faced so far in top 20 running back Braelon Allen. Allen has had 50 rushing attempts for 332 yards and five touchdowns. The Badgers rushing attack leads their offense with 127 attempts, compared to the passing game with 67. With that though, the Badgers being able to rely on Allen has helped Graham Mertz this year. Mertz has been passing more efficiently, with a 71% completion percentage and averaging 11.2 yards when he does throw. The Buckeyes will know to account for Allen, but if Mertz can get a pass game going to make the Buckeyes account for him, that is where this game could become close.
Wisconsin will try to dominate time of possession on the ground to start the game, making it close, at least for the first quarter. There is only so long to contain the Buckeyes’ offense though, and they will end up pulling away with the win. Score prediction: Ohio State- 46, Wisconsin- 17.