Wisconsin is the next “big challenge” for the Buckeyes, at least in terms of what could be the next stumbling block for Ryan Day’s team.
People will be quick to point out that this game could be a challenge because it is the game “after” the big game (Penn State) or because it is a game where a former Ohio State (interim) head coach currently coaches, or just going back to 2010 when a No. 1 ranked Ohio State team tripped up at Camp Randall.
We will get into the series history later in this piece, let’s focus a little bit more on the current 2023 edition of the Badgers.
Are the Badgers a good 5-2 team or a bad one? Wisconsin’s win over Rutgers may prove to be a good win but any team coming out of the Big Ten West will have its record really scrutinized. Purdue, Iowa and Illinois may not be among the nation’s best. Losing to Iowa at home is not going to curry much favor either.
Luke Fickell came to Madison (Wis.) had big plans to bring the Wisconsin offense into the 21st century, but that has not exactly been a quick process.
There are still deep ties to the Paul Chryst offense with this team, as the numbers will show and the loss of Jim Leonhard is not going unnoticed.
Let’s take a first glance at what makes the Badgers tick as we get ready for:
last game: wisconsin def. illinois, 25-21
Wisconsin needed 18 points in the 4th quarter to secure the road win in Champaign (Ill.) against the Illini.
After spotting the Illini a 21-7 lead with less than five minutes left in the third quarter, Fickell’s team finally woke up.
Braelon Allen ran for 145 yards and a touchdown while back-up (and now current starting) quarterback Braedyn Locke was 21-41 for 240 yards and two scores.
The Wisconsin defense held Illinois quarterback Luke Altmeyer to just 4 of 9 passing for 38 yards in the second half and while Wisconsin’s Locke was not exactly sharp, he played his best ball in the 4th quarter with two touchdown passes.
The Badgers have won three of the last four against the Illini.
offensive names to know
QB – Braedyn Locke: If you don’t know this name, that is fine, because he is the back-up after Tanner Mordecai was lost for the season.
Mordecai was not exactly setting the Big Ten on fire, but Locke is going through his own trial by fire now as he is just shy of being a 52-percent passer. He has three picks to just two touchdowns but it is all about getting wins.
Over the course of three games, Locke has averaged just 24 attempts per game as the Badgers are going to have to lean back into their past with the run game and hope to have just enough passing game to try and keep people honest.
RB – Braelon Allen: So, you are telling me the Badgers are a rushing team. That is fine when you have a back like Allen, already north of 700 yards and someone that you can count on for a lot of carries.
What doesn’t help is the loss of Chez Mellusi earlier in the season and there is nothing behind door number two with both Mellusi and Mordecai out, taking eight of the 16 rushing touchdowns off the table.
With all of that, Allen is still a 5.9 YPC type of back and a load to bring down. He has one game against the Buckeyes and went for 165 yards and a score in that lone meeting. Sure, the Buckeyes won that game 52-21, but who’s counting.
If there is not much of a passing game and all hope is on Allen’s legs, it could be a rough night.
WR – Will Pauling: Pauling came to Wisconsin along with Fickell and has been Wisconsin’s most prolific receiver, but of course that is all relative.
He does has 37 receptions and close to 400 receiving yards but just one touchdown, but nobody in the receiving room has more than one and the Badgers have only thrown for five.
Chimere Dike will be another name to follow but with a quarterback that is not quite ready for prime time, will they just largely be decoys for the run game?
defensive names to know
S – Hunter Wohler: If there is one player to focus in on for the Wisconsin defense, this is the guy. He leads the team with 70 tackles (26 more than anyone else) and also has two picks, a sack and four PBUs.
Yes, it is not a great sign when your defense is led in tackles by a safety but that is where the Badgers are. We are not far removed from the Buckeyes being in that same boat as well.
Wohler may be in for a long night going against the Ohio State offense and that is even with the knowledge that Ohio State’s offense is not the same offense we have seen in years past. Wohler will be able to do so much and while there are some other nice pieces in the defense, you can’t bake a cake with 1/4th of the recipe.
CB – Ricardo Hallman: Four interceptions in a season is nothing to sneeze about and Hallman has that through seven games, taking one back for 95 yards and a score.
Hallman is still a young player as a RS-Sophomore, but comes from a talent-rich school out of Miami.
He is not one of those six-foot corners that is all the rage but he just makes plays.
The Wisconsin corner will have his hands full however against an Ohio State receiver room that has size in both Marvin Harrison Jr. and Julian Fleming and even for smaller players like Emeka Egbuka (if he plays), Xavier Johnson and Carnell Tate, things are going to get really real in terms of the quality of players he will be going against.
LB – Darryl Peterson: Peterson leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss and is someone that will have to be accounted for.
He may not be former Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig in terms of the amount of plays made, but he is a nice piece to build a defense around and another player from Ohio (Archbishop Hoban) that would love to make a big mark against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State owns this series and there is a generation of fans that really don’t know what it is like to come up short against the Badgers.
From the 2007 season on, Ohio State has one loss, that 2010 loss at Camp Randall where the Buckeyes walked into an ambush and couldn’t put together enough offense to climb back into things.
That was Jim Tressel’s final year and the Ohio State offense has gone through a lot since those days.
Ohio State holds a 62-18-5 edge and that includes three games in the Big Ten Championship Game, a place where the Buckeyes hold a 3-0 edge.
With all of Ohio State’s success, the Buckeyes dropped the first three games of the series, the longest losing streak that the Buckeyes endured in the series.
Wisconsin has scored more than 28 points against Ohio State one time since the 2010 win and that was in 2011, Ohio State’s 6-7 season where the Buckeyes still managed to pull off a shocker when Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith late in the game to pull off the shocker and send the No. 15 Badgers off with a 33-29 loss.
This series could get more exciting in the future but right now it feels as if the margin between the two programs is larger than the Wisconsin Dells.