Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wisconsin Hopes To Make Ohio State Wince And Weep

October 13, 2003.  Undefeated Ohio State, riding a nineteen game unbeaten streak, comes into Camp Randall to battle the Wisconsin Badgers, led by Barry Alvarez.  Jim Tressel's team battles valiantly, but fall to Ohio native and Wisconsin WR Lee Evans outracing Ohio State's Chris Gamble to the end zone, 17-10.

October 17, 2010. Undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State come into Camp Randall, eager to demonstrate to the nation and the Wisconsin Badgers, led by Bret Bielema, that the Buckeyes are truly worthy of their status as the BCS frontrunner.  Jim Tressel's team again battles valiantly, but fall to one-time Ohio State recruit and Wisconsin RB John Clay's two touchdowns, 31-18.
What did those games from the past have in common with this upcoming contest?
  • Both games were in Camp Randall Stadium
  • Both games were at night
Now that I have your attention, here are three critical areas I will be keeping an eye on when this contest kicks off at 8pm EST on ABC...
  1. Can Ohio State Develop Offensive Balance Against Wisconsin? ~ Ohio State's J.T. Barrett's passing statistics from his game against Indiana were as follows - 9/21 for 93 yards, with 1 touchdown to Dontre Wilson, and 1 interception that glanced off the hands of Marcus Baugh.  Barrett was tremendously successful running the ball against Indiana, leading the Buckeyes with 137 yards on the ground.  Look for Wisconsin to do everything possible to bottle up Ohio State's running game.  Will Ohio State be able to counter effectively through the air against the Badgers?  Something else to be seen - how the Ohio State wide receivers respond, after this story emerged on ESPN.com earlier this week.
  2. Will Curtis Samuel Be Involved Earlier In The Offensive Gameplan Against Wisconsin? ~ Curtis Samuel had a solid game against Indiana, running for 82 yards and a touchdown.  The larger point is that Samuel did not actually touch the ball until the second quarter began, and Ohio State was tied 3-3 with Indiana.  Will the Ohio State offensive coaches involve Samuel sooner, regardless of whether it involves running or passing?
  3. How Will Ohio State Respond To The Camp Randall Challenge? ~  As stated up above, Ohio State has lost to Wisconsin at night on previous occasions.  It must also be noted that Ohio State has defeated Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium at night, in 2008, with a true freshman quarterback in Terrelle Pryor.  The larger point is Wisconsin truly revels in the night game atmosphere of Camp Randall Stadium, especially when the Buckeyes come to town.  Yes, Ohio State's young team excelled against Oklahoma at night.  This is another huge test of the maturity and poise of the 2016 Buckeyes.
Prediction:  The player I will keep an eye on throughout is WR Noah Brown.  A physical mismatch, look for Barrett to target Brown repeatedly in this game against Wisconsin.  If Brown can be a consistent possession receiver, especially in the red zone, it will open up opportunities for other offensive weapons within Ohio State's arsenal.  Look for this game to be a typical Ohio State/Wisconsin slugfest, but I see the Buckeyes pulling away in the fourth quarter, with Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 21.

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