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Pack It Up, Pack It In

Camp Randall at night…Jump Around…Hostile Territory

Halfway through the season and the Buckeyes find themselves on the road again and this time in without a doubt one of the most difficult places to play – Camp Randall.  The Badgers own a 40-4 record there since 2004.  Factor in this being a night game which will give the Badger faithful that much more time to fill themselves with liquid euphoria all day with Game Day coming to town, as well as everyone in the country wanting to see if Ohio State is worthy of the #1 – the spotlight doesn’t shine too much brighter nor does the pressure get too much higher than when kickoff gets here Saturday night.

Not to mention despite the fact that the Badgers have dropped a conference game they are still a talented team that plays the typical brand of physical football that we have come to expect.  Big line, bruising back and high caliber TE that gets thrown to a lot.  The Bielema Bunch may have never been able to get  win against the Buckeyes – but does that make them more or less dangerous?  In all honesty, I have to agree with the most of the media on the fact that this game will tell us a lot about our team.  Our only other road test was less than spectacular – this time around Wisconsin probably a tougher team (it remains to be seen if Illinois is for real) and Madison is definitely a tougher place to play.  The Buckeyes have to go in there and take care of business to silence the doubters, at least for the time being that is.

Wisconsin Notables:

–          Offensively the Badgers average 450 yards per game, which puts them at 24th in the country – the same ranking that Indiana had last week until running into the Silver Bullets.  The difference is that Wisconsin gets most of those yards on the ground – averaging 240 yards with Clay and White toting the rock – which makes them 11th in the country in rushing.  Can you say smash mouth?

–          As even non fanatical fans would know most of the rushing is done by #32 John Clay – one of the better runners in the country who is following up on a strong 2009 where he went for 1500 yards and 18 TDs by hitting the century mark in all but one game this year (Sparty held him to 80 yards).  He is a big bruiser and for a change of pace freshman #20 James White who is faster and shiftier is brought in.  White has blown up this year going for 485 yards and 8 TDs on the season after beating out sophomore #28 Ball for the backup job.  White is also a threat receiving out of the backfield.  Ball who is more like Clay with the punishing style is no slouch either having racked up 201 yards in spot duty.

–          This year’s version of the Wisconsin TE is #84 Kendricks.  Big (6’4”/241) and is the Badger’s leading receiver with 25 for 356 yards and 3 TDs.  The Mackey Award candidate is also a great run blocker.

–          Receivers are lead by junior #1 Toon who has good size at 6’3” but has been hampered by injuries this year.  On the other side #6 Anderson who is smaller (5’ 10” / 176) but is also senior veteran who makes steady contributions.  For speed the Badgers have #4 Abbrederis a freshman who is a converted scout team QB and senior #85 Gilreath.  Gilreath lead the team in receiving in 2008 but has seen his role in the passing game diminished – however Bielema will also involve him on end arounds and fly sweeps.

–          For the second straight week the Buckeyes face a veteran senior at QB.  Last week was the pass happy Chappell, this week Tolzien is not nearly as dangerous through the air but has improved significantly completing 69% of his passes and only tossing two picks.  Granted he has only thrown for 7 TDs (Pryor has 15 for comparison) but when you have Clay in the backfield throwing opportunities are somewhat limited.  Through the air the Badgers are 72nd nationally in passing with 216.2 yards per game.

–          Big surprise – Wisconsin has a big, physical offensive line.  All of them are over 300 lbs and have about 130 career starts combined so experience is there as well.  Led on the left by seniors LT #68 Carmini  who is on the Outland and Lombardi watch lists and LG #74 Moffit who is a team captain.  At center is #66 Konz who like the Buckeyes Brewster is on the Rimington watch list.  On the right side is RG #70 Zeitler who has been somewhat slowed by injuries early on and RT will be manned by sophomore #58 Wagner a converted TE who is replacing original starter Oglesby who is out injured.  This group has been brutally effective at running the ball and also has cut down on the amount of sacks given up compared to last year.

–          Defensively up front the leader are juniors #93 Nzegwu and #99 Watt on the outside and both have two sacks on the year.  In the middle are junior #95 Butrym and redshirt freshman #91 Kohout.  This group was initially thought to be the weak link on the Badger defense but they have played above expectations for the most part.

–          The big story at linebacker is the season ending injury of Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season Borland.  They are currently led by team leading tackler #15 St Jean in the middle spot.  Fellow senior #9 Sorensen is on one side of him and sophomore #53 Taylor is on the other.

–            The secondary is led by hard hitting #2 Valai who gave Boom a cheap shot concussion last time we were at the Camp.  #7 Henry has two fumble recoveries this season after having an ACL injury last year.  Only one interception among the entire secondary and that belongs to #26 Fenelus.   All these guys are basically the same size –  5’9”-6’ / 200 – so it is a little like having four cornerbacks on the field at the same time.

–          Wisconsin is 0-4 against top-10 teams.

When it comes to the Buckeyes it really come down to just executing in the hostile environment – I think we will be okay.  I mean the majority of the starters have been to the Big House, Happy Valley for a white out – so they have seen rowdy crowd before.  Jump around or not I think we will be ready.   Of course I think we will need to run the ball with someone not named Pryor at some point in the evening.  Earlier in the week I was really concerned about this as I watched the Monday night game when there was the torrential downpour in Minnesota.  But the weather should be fine for passing – so a truly dual threat Pryor is something extremely difficult for any defense to contain an entire game.   This isn’t the same kid who turned the option up field two years ago.  Definitely want to see more of Saine in the slot, and hopefully will see some Stoneburner action as well.  As for the running backs and offensive line –  it would be great to see some consistency, I am not asking for complete domination – but something more than a bunch of ugly with a couple nice runs.

Defensively this is the type of game any true Big Ten fan wants to watch.  A physical running game against a dominant front seven.  Our linebackers will get the job done and be able to contain Clay, but what they really have to watch for is getting too caught up in Clay and miss out on the play action to the tight end – EMU exploited that several times against us and Kendricks is a good enough player to do serious damage.  If Williams can bring heat that should help contain the passing game too, who knows maybe Heyward gets a real sack this game.

My big play prediction of the week is Jamaal Berry takes a kickoff back to the house this game.  Arizona State almost beat the Badgers with special teams and Sparty had success too.

Prediction:

Ohio State – 31

Wisconsin – 21