Ohio State Football: Q & A with a Wisconsin Badger Expert

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes leaves the field after the win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes leaves the field after the win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

If you are an Ohio State fan you may find the perspective of a Wisconsin Expert interesting.

Now that the Big Ten Championship Game between Ohio State and Wisconsin is about to be played, I thought I would reach out to the FanSided Expert at Badger of Honor Noah Seligman.

Noah definitely brought it with his answers to my questions, and I think you will find this an interesting read.

S&G:  Is there an air of confidence around Madison with undefeated Wisconsin playing 10-2 Ohio State or do you sense some nervousness?

Noah:  I think there is every reason to be confident when you are 12-0 and have dusted more than a few opponents lately. I mean the defense alone has allowed 10 points total in its last three games.

Both Iowa TDs came on Pick6s and 3 of Michigan’s 10 came immediately following an interception. In addition, much maligned QB Alex Hornibrook is coming off one of his better games of the year in the Minnesota rout.

So in total, the Badgers have to be feeling good about how they’re playing heading into the post season. Yet, nobody has soon forgetting the 59-0 thrashing The Ohio State hung on Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten title game. After JT Barrett got hurt against Michigan and all.

So that wound even after three years still feels a little fresh. In addition, the Buckeyes have had some baffling results this year crushing Michigan State but losing huge to Iowa. So it’s hard to say what kind of Buckeye team shows up on Saturday. But Urban Meyer is still one of the better coaches in college football. So you can’t feel too good.

S&G:  One of the key matchups will be the strong Wisconsin offensive line versus the Ohio State front seven. Is there a concern about the Buckeyes’ speed, or is it seen as an advantage for the Badgers because of the huge size advantage they have?

Noah:  The size advantage matters in straight ahead short yardage situations. It also could matter late in the game. Because the Badger defense is so strong nobody has yet been able to sustain drives.

Wisconsin has always been a good ball control clock chewing team. That’s even more pronounced this season given the elite defense.

So later in the second half you might see some fatigue. You can slow Wisconsin initially perhaps, but over time leaning (or being leaned on) by those big Badger OL grinds you down.

I’m worried about it however. And highlighted in my key questions for the game. As I wrote there, Wisconsin uses lots of motion and pulling and traps and such.

That does create a little crease for great DE like Nick Bosa or Tyquan Lewis to shoot through and make a play. In addition, like lots of young QBs, you get pressure on Alex Hornibrook and his fundamentals betray him and he drops his eye level.

I know Denzel Ward should go in the 1st round, but the Buckeyes did lose 3 members of its secondary to the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That is still a remarkable sentence to write.

But I agree, if the Buckeyes DL can frustrate what Wisconsin’s OL wants to do in the running game that will go a long way towards The Ohio State getting the win.

S&G:  If the Buckeyes limit Jonathan Taylor in the running game, can Alex Hornibrook win the game with his arm?

Noah:  Yes? I mean early on against Minnesota (I know, I know, the Buckeyes ain’t the Gophers), sold out against the run. Stack the box, drop both safeties down in run support. That left single coverage outside. Wisconsin’s young speedy WRs took advantage on quick throws.

Hornibrook has the ability to win the game for sure. He was a Danny Davis drop from perfect against BYU in a 40-6 road win in week three. Yet, he has struggled with turnovers. Last week against Minnesota was the first game since that BYU one where he did not throw a pick.

Hornibrook doesn’t have a big arm and has a slow release. And yeah, he’ll stares daggers at his target. He is not the least bit mobile and struggles at time with footwork in the pocket and throwing the ball. Then he turns around makes some impressive throws against Michigan to doom the Wolverines.

But yeah, if I were The Ohio State, priorities one, two, and three, is stopping the run. If Alex Hornibrook has himself a day and beats you I think you can live with that.

He has the ability. But I think an undervalued and under-respected Buckeye defense could make things difficult. And Wisconsin simply isn’t built for 3rd and longs. Especially since he isn’t going to see man coverage and tuck and run to move the chains.

Again, given how good the Badger defense is you need those interceptions to set up a short field and steal points without having to drive the football.

S&G:  Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli is a nightmare matchup for any defense. What do you see his role being on Saturday, and is there another player who could be a factor in the passing game we should keep our eyes on?

Noah:  So Fumagalli is great and he is going to do well in the NFL because he can block and line up anywhere to catch passes. He is a finalist for the John Mackey award given to the top TE in the nation but the other finalist have significantly better numbers.

He is a major weapon especially on 3rd down. But the Badgers have a budding group of young WRs who are thriving this year.

They lost leading WR Quintez Cephus to injury for the year. But young speedsters Danny Davis, AJ Taylor, and Kendric Pryor have all emerged as big weapons. They aren’t physical targets but super fast and quick.

They’ll cause you problems on crossing routes and vertically. So of that trident, I would pay most attention to Danny Davis. Hornibrook appears comfortable throwing short slants, digs, and curls to fast WR cutting over the middle. Then off play action they’ll run deep post routes or out and ups to get something going vertical outside the numbers.

S&G:  The Badgers have one of the top defenses in the country, but how much of a concern is that they are going up against the speed of the Buckeye skill position players?

Noah:  None whatsoever. Wisconsin’s defense is the best in the country and with good reason.

Guys like Conor Sheehy and Alec James wreck the opposing OL. While a talented LB group led by star TJ Edwards and Ryan Connelly get the glory and the stats.

The Badger defense is for real and I’d put them up against any defense in the country. There is no worry about Buckeye speed causing problems.

The Badgers have plenty of speed of its own and intelligent instinctive players who stifle opposing offenses. The Badger run defense and pass rush is so important because that really gets you off schedule.

They’ll blow up plays and put you in long downs and distances needing to throw. The secondary, especially Nick Nelson at CB is really good. I’d target Derrick Tindal and especially freshman Dontye Carrier-Williams especially on double moves. Because otherwise it will be tough sledding for The Ohio State.

S&G:  Do fans feel slighted because of the lack of respect for the Badgers even though they are undefeated?

Noah:  I think a lot of folks do. Especially since the SEC hype as you noted in a recent post is based on recent history and not present performances.

The idea that an undefeated power five champion could miss the College Football Playoff has always been absurd to me. What a terrible precedent that would be.

But Wisconsin is undefeated and still only the #4 team at the moment. So I guess it could happen. I think some of the schedule critiques is unfair.

I’m not going to suggest the Big Ten West is a good division (especially compared to the East) but we knocked Iowa and Michigan out of the rankings after beating them. BYU normally wins 9-10 games and decides this year to be awful. So that should have been a quality road win.

But I think that’s pretty typical for Wisconsin fans. The big name programs (Michigan, Penn State, The Ohio State) will always consume more oxygen than the rest of the conference.

We also don’t top the recruiting rankings ever and get production from walk-ons. So there’s a point of pride in that too. As if good recruiting isn’t a major part of what makes for a good college coach or something.

Of course the Badgers would want 4-5 stars. They just don’t get them and make due.

Personally, I will feel slighted big time if Wisconsin moves to 13-0 winning the Big Ten and does no better than a #4. The idea of two-loss Auburn at #2 is pretty insulting.

S&G:  Finally, how do you see the Big Ten Championship Game playing out and what is your final score?

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Noah:  I think this going to be a low scoring affair as both defenses do well to contain opposing offenses. That’s certainly the preference for Wisconsin.

The Badgers aren’t winning a track meet against the Buckeyes. While Wisconsin deserves every ounce of hype about its defense, I don’t think that requires overlooking what The Ohio State has on defense. That’s why I think they’ll be a fair amount of punting and field position will be so critical.

Frankly, without knowing Barrett’s full health it’s a little tricky to predict. If I were a The Ohio State fan, I’d prefer a healthy deputy to an immobile Barrett. But that’s not my call.

I say the good guys win this one and eventually grind out a result as a good punt return and timely turnover are major lifts to get points. Eventually Jonathan Taylor rips off some big runs late for the final margin.

Wisconsin 24 The Ohio State 20.

Next: Predictions for conference championship games

Thanks to Noah for the interview. It’s interesting to see what the opposing side thinks, but I hope Noah is wrong.