Last weekend, Wisconsin looked like a cohesive and dominant team with a 66-7 win over New Mexico State. . Meanwhile, Ohio State is coming off a dominating 77-21 victory over Toledo and enters this game 3-0. What does Wisconsin need to get out of Columbus with a W?
Last week, the line appeared to create space for anyone who came out of the backfield with a football. Three different fullbacks not only found their way into the end zone, but also averaged over 5 yards per run. Braelon Allen, Isaac Guerendo and Chez Mellusi are a trio of thunder, lightning and more. If Wisconsin can use the line again this week, Ohio State will be tasked with stopping a three-headed monster capable of making plays and scoring touchdowns.
However, the big boys up front have their work cut out for them. Mike Hall Jr. has been explosive for Ohio State this year, racking up 7 tackles and 2 sacks early in the season. He is a guy capable of blowing up the gaps. Not only that, but Tommy Eichenberg is quick enough to read play calls quickly and make adjustments even before the ball is broken. If the Badgers can find ways to isolate these two and contain them, the Wisconsin field and pound should be strong enough to at least set up the passing game for Graham Mertz.
Capitalize on play-action (throw the fuckin’ ball)
If Bobby Engram has held anything back this season, now is the time to let it shine. While running play will likely be the focus, Wisconsin will need to take a few shots and push the ball down to attack Ohio State’s widespread weakness. They’ve given up nearly two hundred yards in the air per game so far this year. Including individual passes of 50 yards or more. When Wisconsin took off, they were explosive, ranking in the top ten for passing explosiveness, and that has to continue here.
If Mertz is able to figure out that the defense is going to bite on play action, he could soon find himself with an opportunity to hit some big plays. Wisconsin has four different receivers who have reached the end zone in the air, and three of them have received over a hundred yards so far this year. Wide receiver Chimere Dike, Skyler Bell and tight end Clay Cundiff are all capable of creating space between defenders for Mertz to throw the ball in.
While that only helps with small wins, making sure they are within striking distance of a first down could be a game-changer. Wisconsin has one of the highest third down conversion rates in college football. Let’s see if they carry that in the horseshoe of Columbus.
Finding ways to confuse CJ Stroud
The Badgers have one of the best defensive units in the country. The Wisconsin defense is currently 11th in total yards allowed, 19th in pass defense, 13th in run defense and 8th in points allowed per game. They are certainly capable of containing the Buckeyes. But CJ Stroud is a potential candidate for Heisman.
Yes, the Badgers have 7 interceptions including one for a touchdown, but Stroud is yet to throw a pick this season showing incredible efficiency with the football. It will also be very difficult to stop a 6’4, fast and strong runner like Marvin Harrison Jr. of the Buckeyes. Most Badger defenders are fast, athletic, and able to read routes and patterns quite well. But you can’t make up for physical size sometimes, and most Wisconsin defenders even hover around 6 feet.
If Wisconsin can force the Buckeyes to rely more on running play rather than attacking in the air, they’ve at least slowed play enough to make Ohio State less likely to run away. with. The Badgers have a dominant force capable of rising to the task in Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig. They are both capable of taking command and keeping Ohio State guarded inside the box. If you think about the points Washington State has racked up, remember that a lot of those scoring opportunities weren’t necessarily created by the defense. Bad decision-making on 4th down and special teams played a big role.