Next Up: Wisconsin
Wisconsin won 20 straight home games before falling to Michigan State two weeks ago. One week ago, they got back on track in a big way in a road game against Indiana.
Defensively, the Badgers were the first team this season to hold the Hoosiers to fewer than 24 points. Offensively, they rushed for a school-best 564 yards.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of the carries went to the player just one score shy of tying the NCAA career record. Montee Ball has 77 touchdowns, and he’s almost certain to pass Miami Redhawks running back Travis Prentice (78) before the end of the season.
And he’s not the only player on his team who can tote the rock.
Junior James White has also had a successful year, and that’s a big part of the reason Bucky is 17th nationally in rushing offense, and it’s why they’re the first FBS team this season to have had two 150-yard rushers in a game.
Their dependence on the run game may be even more pronounced now that they’re on their third quarterback. Danny O’Brien began the year as the starter, but struggled and gave way to Joel Stave. Stave broke his collarbone, so senior Curt Phillips took over.
Phillips has fewer career completions–and remember he’s a senior–than the Ohio State defense has interceptions this season.
As Phillips looks to add to his total, he’ll be throwing to Wisconsin’s leading receiver Jared Abbrederis. Meanwhile, the offensive line is giving up an average of 2 sacks a game.
In a nice little bit of symmetry, the Wisconsin defensive line is also averaging 2 sacks a game. That number puts them in the middle of the pack in that category.
That’s one of the few areas where the Badger’s D is merely average. Mike Taylor is one of the tops in the country with almost ten tackles a game. Devin Smith has three picks. Chris Borland has 9 tackles for loss and 6 pass break-ups.
As a team. they’re 15th nationally in total defense, 13th in rushing defense, and 12th in scoring defense.
That all translates into wins. Coach Bret Bielema is 46-4 in his time in Madison when his team gives up fewer than 20 points. They’re 7-3 in this campaign, and they’ve already clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game. (As you can see from the screen grab from their website.)
The Buckeyes take on Wisconsin this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on 97.1 The Fan.