The Wisconsin Badgers and Ohio State Buckeyes are set to collide on Saturday in a battle that likely will go a long way in deciding who is the king of Big Ten football in 2013. Both teams find themselves solidly ranked in the top 25 in the nation and will be looking to remain unbeaten in conference early on in the season.
Wisconsin will be riding into the Horseshoe in Columbus hot off of a victory over Purdue that opened Big Ten play. Currently ranked number 23 in the nation, the Badgers would be ranked significantly higher if not for an officiating gaffe against Arizona State that saw the clock run out before a game winning chip shot field goal could be attempted by the Badgers.
Ohio State on the other hand is a legitimate BCS National Championship contender at number 4 in the land. The Buckeyes are yet to be challenged in 2013, running through their non-conference opposition. It is hard to envision a more perfect outing than they had last week against Florida A&M. They dominated their opponents, that may even be an understatement, winning 76-0.
Despite the fact that his team is currently atop the standings, coach Urban Meyer views his Buckeyes as the challengers looking to dethrone the Badgers as kings of the Big Ten. Perhaps there is something to what he is saying, the Badgers have won both Big Ten conference championship games since the reformatting of the conference, and also represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl the past three seasons.
That being said, the Buckeye players disagree with their coach. In their minds, they are the lead dog. As corner Bradley Roby of Ohio State put it on Wednesday, “we know we’re the king, so we’re not worried about anybody else. Simple as that.”
It may not be so simple. Despite being at home and a favorite, Braxton Miller and his explosive offense should be prepared to run into a brick wall when they square off against Wisconsin’s defense. The Badgers have not allowed a passing touchdown yet this season. Ohio State is talented at wide receiver, but this certainly makes for one of the most interesting match ups of this game.
The running game should be a huge emphasis for both teams offensively. The Badgers are perennially one of the best rushing teams in the nation, with this year being no exception. Coming into the weekend they are third in the nation with 350 yards per game on the ground. Not to be beaten in the rushing game, the Buckeyes are sixth in the land with 311 yards per contest rushing the football.
Assuming both teams are able to cancel each other out on the ground, it could very well come down to the passing attack to decide this one. We already discussed the huge battle between the Badgers defense and Braxton Miller and the Ohio State receiving corps, and that battle will be incredibly interesting to watch.
When the Badgers have the ball, they don’t like to throw it much. Against a team like Ohio State, balance could prove key, so look for more play action and down field threats to keep the safeties from creeping up in the box. Through four games, Wisconsin has only thrown the ball 99 times. They surely will pass the ball more in this one if they want to keep their Big Ten crown. The Buckeyes corners will be given a lot more one on one responsibilities given the fact that the focus will be on the running game. If the Badger wide outs can beat the coverage consistently, this game could turn into a shoot out.
Regardless of how things play out, the Badgers or Buckeyes will walk away looking good with the Big Ten crown at least temporarily atop their head.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express