Breakdown: No.23 Wisconsin at No.4 Ohio State

Ohio State receiver Devin Smith

After dispatching Purdue in the Big Ten opener, No.23 Wisconsin travels to Columbus for No.4 Ohio State's Big Ten opener, hoping to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe for the first time since 2004. Badger Nation breaks down the matchup.

No.23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. No.4 Ohio State (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 28 at 7 p.m. CT

Stadium –Ohio Stadium (102,329/FieldTurf)

Television –ABC (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas), Sirius 91, XM 91

Series – Ohio State leads 55-18-5 (Wisconsin leads 23-13-5 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Ohio State defeated Wisconsin, 21-14 in overtime, on Nov.17, 2012 in Madison

Last week's Badger Nation game coverage

Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage

Series Notes

Ohio State and Wisconsin are the two winningest Big Ten programs of the last two decades. Only the Buckeyes have claimed a share of more Big Ten titles (10) than the Badgers' five and have more wins (204) than Wisconsin's 178 since the start of the 1993 season.

The Badgers also look to snap the nation's longest win streak at 16 consecutive games. UW ended what was the nation's longest win streak at 19 straight when it knocked off Ohio State, 17-10, in Madison in 2003.

Ohio State has claimed five of the last six meetings in the series since the Badgers scored back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 2003 and 2004.

Saturday's matchup marks the 15th time Wisconsin and Ohio State will match up with both teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Badgers are 4-8-2 in the previous 14 meetings in which both teams were ranked by the AP.

UW is 4-15-2 all-time against Buckeyes teams ranked in the top five of the AP poll, but the Badgers have won two of the teams' last three meetings in which OSU carried a top-five ranking

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin boasts the nation's active career leader in rushing yards (3,013), rushing touchdowns (35) and total touchdowns (36) in senior RB James White and the nation's seasonal leader in rushing yards (624) and rushing average (11.8) in sophomore RB Melvin Gordon.

Wisconsin's 1,399 rushing yards are the most by a Big Ten team through the first four games of a season since at least 2000.

Wisconsin has scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games. That ties as the fifth-longest such streak in school history. UW's longest run of scoring at least 30 points is seven straight games, which was achieved in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

In limiting Purdue to 180 total yards, the Badgers held an opponent under 200 yards of total offense for the second time in four games this season (Tennessee Tech had 113 yards on Sept. 7).

Opponents have converted just 26.2 per- cent of their third-down attempts through the air against UW's defense.

Ohio State Notes

The 76 points Ohio State scored Saturday against Florida A&M represented the most points ever for an Urban Meyer-coached team and the sixth-most points scored in a game in school history. It was the most points in 63 years, or since the 1950 team scored 83 vs. Iowa.

Kenny Guiton has thrown 12 touchdown passes in the last three games. No Ohio State quarterback has ever thrown for as many touchdowns in one three-game stretch.

Ohio State has had five 300-plus yard rushing games in Urban Meyer's 16 games as coach. Prior to Meyer's arrival, Ohio State had just seven 300-yard rushing games in the past 15 years and covering 176 games.

Devin Smith has now caught 14 touchdown passes in his career at an average distance of 41.5 yards per score. Smith, who has 60 career receptions for 1,193 yards, now ranks 12th at Ohio State in TD receptions. He needs one more to tie Ted Ginn Jr. and two to reach Ohio State's Top 10.

For the second time this season Jordan Hall smashed his career rushing bests. After setting personal bests with 21 carries for 159 yards and two scores vs. Buffalo Aug. 31, Hall topped those numbers with 30 carries for 168 yards and three touchdowns in the win at California Sept. 14. He also set a career-best with five receptions vs. the Golden Bears, for 20 yards.

Breakdown

Two years ago Wisconsin was one of the top 15 programs in the country while Ohio State was reeling following the firing of head coach Jim Tressel. Last year the Badgers held Braxton Miller under 200 yards of offense and without a touchdown pass, all the while rushing for 200 yards themselves.

So why has Wisconsin lost both games either in the final minute or in overtime?

"Their special teams, definitely, has been a big time factor," said senior Dezmen Southward. "They blocked a punt two years ago and returned a punt last year. Special teams have been huge and they've definitely have burned us a couple times as far as special teams is concerned, so we have to be solid there."

Special teams are one of countless areas that Wisconsin needs to be proficient this evening if they want to beat an Ohio State team that is ranked fourth in the country and hasn't loss in its last 16 games, all under the direction of Urban Meyer.

For starters, Wisconsin is going to have to win the battle in the trenches. Ohio State's front seven is young, but they have talented players like linebacker Ryan Shazier. Senior offensive lineman Ryan Groy called him a freak, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig called him extremely athletic and senior tight end Jacob Pedersen combined the two.

"I'll call him an athletic freak," he said. "He flies around and makes plays."

Wisconsin's running game should get its yards (the Badgers are one of the nation's best rushing teams at 349.8 per game and rushed for 204 yards against a better Buckeyes defense last year), but the main concern is the passing game. Meyer called Melvin Gordon – the nation's leading rusher – a "tremendous, tremendous player" and that UW might have the best one-two punches in the country. That's coach speak for "we're going to load the box and not let the run game beat us."

Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave, who missed last season's 21-14 overtime loss while recovering from a broken collarbone, has yet to throw for over 220 yards in any of his starts this season and has struggled to put together a complete game.

The offensive line protection has been good for Wisconsin (just three sacks allowed in four games) but the Badgers might be without Pedersen and will definitely be without receivers Kenzel Doe and Jeff Duckworth. Missing that many weapons, Wisconsin will need to win the battle in the trenches.

"Normally like this, the game is won in the trenches, especially from an o-lineman's point of view," said Groy. "If we won up front, get a lot of rushing yards, don't give up any sacks, we'll most likely win the game. If we come out with that attitude, we'll go from there."

Defensively the Badgers task appears even tougher. Ohio State's run game has been equally as good, averaging 311 yards per carry, and the Buckeyes' two quarterback – Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton – have the ability to run with great effectiveness. After allowing Miller to rush for 99 yards and two touchdowns two years ago, Miller finished with only 47 yards and no scores last season.

"I think it's just being in the right spot, reading our keys the right way and doing what we've been taught," said Southward. "A lot of times if you are able to do those things you will be in position to contain him, make some plays and to discourage some plays you don't want to see. I think we've been really good at sticking to our plans and executing."

Wisconsin would behoove themselves if they can continue the pressure it threw at Purdue last week. After struggling to generate pressure on Arizona State's spread offense, Wisconsin had four sacks, eight quarterback hurries and one interception against the Boilermakers. Having a sliver of that will slow Ohio State's rushing attack and take pressure off a secondary that allowed 352 passing yards the last time it faced a spread offense.

"Anytime you can generate pressure on a quarterback, get him off his spot and take his eyes down and force him to have to run, that's a lot easier on our defensive backs because they aren't so worried on the deep ball," said defensive tackle Brendan Kelly. "You can't let a quarterback sit back there and pat the ball all day. There are a lot of times where we're going to be bringing pressure at him and disguising pressure and try to get after him on the back side a little bit. I definitely think it's going to be a very good game plan and I am looking forward to seeing it unfold on Saturday."

Groy called playing Ohio State "a different animal," considering how tough and physical the games have been over the last handful of years. The Badgers always seem to play the Buckeyes tough – home or away – so it's tempting to pick Wisconsin to cover the 7.5-point spread or win outright.

While I left Sun Devils Stadium thinking Wisconsin could beat anybody on its schedule, last week's game was a dose of reality that the Badgers' passing game has not improved from last year. To beat Ohio State a team needs to be two dimensional or have a mobile quarterback. Wisconsin has neither.

Ohio State has more overall talent on offense, has better special teams and is athletic enough on defense to handcuff UW's running game. And until he proves otherwise, I don't think Stave can't beat a really good defense without a running game.

Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 24

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 3-1*

Against the Spread: 4-0

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