No matter which quarterback pictured above lines up under center to start for the Buckeyes this weekend (tickets are still available from Vivid Seats), great results should be expected. On the right is the human-highlight-Heisman-hopeful Braxton Miller, who has been sidelined for the majority of OSU’s last three games. On his left is the guy who is putting up all the numbers we expected from Braxton, backup Kenny Guiton. In Miller’s absence, Guiton has amassed twelve touchdowns (a record for a three game span) and over six hundred yards. He has done this while completing nearly 70% of his passes and leading the Buckeyes to three straight dominating wins. In last week’s domination over FAMU, Guiton broke the OSU record for touchdowns in a game with six… in the first half! The Buckeye’s team has played solidly on both sides of the ball, ranking sixth in rushing yards per game, fourth in points per game, and 21st in points allowed per game.
Their opening week of conference play begins with Wisconsin, who come into the game ranked 23rd in the nation and boasting a 3-1 record. Like the Buckeyes, they have relied heavily on their ground game, ranking third in the country in yards per game thanks largely to the three-headed backfield beasts Melvin Gordon, James White, and Corey Clement. All three have over 300 yards and three touchdowns apiece. Gordon has been most impressive thus far. With 624 yards (11.8 ypc) and six touchdowns, he is the best back statistically in the Big Ten. In the passing game, sophomore quarterback Joel Stave has mainly played the role of game-manager, having only attempted more than thirty throws one time this season and failing to top 220 yards in a game. Half of his touchdown throws have gone to Jared Abbrederis, a 6’2 senior wideout poised for a big season. That size matchup could poise a problem for the Buckeye’s lead corner, Bradley Roby, who struggled earlier this season against California.
Defensively, the Badgers have thrived against the run, allowing just 76.3 yards per game, sixth best in the nation. Linebacker Chris Borland has played very impressively so far and the front four held Purdue running back Akeem Hunt to just 31 yards last week. The passing defense has been rather inconsistent thus far, having shut Rob Henry down last week (18/36, 135 yards, 1 int.) but allowing 352 yards to Taylor Kelly the week before in the Arizona State debacle… but more on that later.
The lone loss in the Badger’s record came in a much controversial clash with Arizona State University in week three. The Badger’s were just a failed two point conversion from tying the game with 3 minutes to go. Then with 1:34 left, the Badger’s took over and drove the ball successfully down the field to set up the game winning field goal. Stave took the ball and tried to rush the ball into the center of the field to make for an easier field goal, but as he went to go down, he bumped into an offensive lineman. In a rush, he placed the ball on the ground. With the clock still running and ASU players diving at the ball thinking it was a fumble, the refs blew their whistles calling a dead ball. But by the time the Badger’s realized the clock was still rolling, they were too late in getting into spiking formation. The clock ran out, and before anyone really realized what was going on, the Badger’s record fell to 2-1 and the Sun Devils were celebrating their win over the then 20th ranked Wisconsin squad.
The high-powered Buckeye offense will be seeing their first test of the season. They rely heavily on the running game (6th in nation in yards per game) and the Badgers rely heavily on shutting the rushing game down (aforementioned 6th best in nation) which should provide for the matchup of the game.
To call the OSU offense dominating would be a major understatement. Their 29 touchdowns are tied for first with Baylor in the NCAA and their 52.5 points per game is fourth best. The aforementioned “quarterback controversy” is a certain win-win for coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeye fans. At the current moment, the pair is listed as ‘co-starters’ with Guiton expected to come in at some point and offer a change of pace and a corkscrew in the Badger’s scheming. Both quarterbacks are well established scramblers and behind them will be arguably the nation’s best rotation of running backs. Carlos Hyde made his season debut last week and should expect to see a big workload this weekend in addition to breakout star Jordan Hall. Behind them is well established backup Rod Smith with lightning quick freshman Dontre Wilson getting a good dosage of touches. The receiving corp has also thrived thus far, as Devin Smith, Philly Brown, and Chris Fields have amassed eleven touchdowns between them; providing a potent down the field option to compliment the ground and pound rushing game.
The key to the Buckeye’s winning this football game will be found in their success to run the ball and stop it on the other end. If the plethora of Buckeye backs can’t get momentum going, the passing game, which thrives off play action, will be sharply affected. If the Buckeye’s front seven can’t stop the Badger backs from getting momentum, then the game could become too close for comfort. Last year’s thriller wasn’t decided until overtime, but with this year’s Buckeye offense looking much more experienced and well-rounded, fans in Colombus aren’t expecting Saturday’s version to be close if all goes as expected. But then again, when does anything go as expected in the Big Ten? For continuous coverage on the news leading up the game stay with scarletandgame.com and stick with us throughout the contest as we will provide live updates, analysis, and coverage!