INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State’s football program is nationally regarded as one of the historic powers of the sport. The Buckeyes have won eight national championships, possess seven Heisman trophies, and have won the Big Ten 35 times in the program’s history. The program is filled with star power, both currently and traditionally. Head coach Urban Meyer is considered one of the best in the world at his profession, and the program is truly elite. The operation run in Columbus, Ohio is one that nearly every program in the country strives to be. Very few can boast more impressive historical resumes.
For as good as Wisconsin has been in recent memory, they don’t have the historical relevance that the Buckeyes do. That won’t matter on Saturday when the two teams square off in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.
“It’s tough, obviously they have a lot of talent, but we have a lot of talent,” linebacker T.J. Edwards told the media. “The [recruiting] stars and stuff, it doesn’t mean much going into this game. We know we’re going to get their best and that’s not really something we’re focused on because we know we can match just about anything in the country.”
Since 2000, Wisconsin has had 38 recruits that have garnered either four or five stars, per 247. Ohio State has had 227 such players. The Buckeyes currently have more four and five-star players on their current roster than the Badgers have had in the past 17 years.
This isn’t something that’s new. Looking at the top eight in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, the Badgers are far behind the other seven teams. There are currently six players on Wisconsin’s roster that garnered a four-star rating out of high school, and none that were five stars. Ohio State has 62 such players rostered.
Ohio State is as successful of a program as they are in part due to the gaudy number of immensely talents players they’ve brought in. Wisconsin does things much differently. The Badgers develop kids and take an incredible amount of pride in their walk-on program. Very few, if any, other major college football programs have had this much success with that method.
The Buckeyes enter the game favored by nearly everyone. Despite their two losses this season, they get the benefit of the doubt. The Badgers are routinely criticized for going unbeaten through a primarily weak schedule, despite having two more wins against bowl-eligible teams than Ohio State does. Part of the reasoning for that is due to the amount of respect Ohio State gets natural talent the Buckeyes have, and possibly a little bit of disrespect of the way Wisconsin develops their talent.
The Buckeyes are going to continue to be in the national spotlight, and they’ve earned that. The Badgers shouldn’t be slept on, however. Wisconsin has been one of the best in the country over the past decade. They’ve won 100 games over the past 10 years, which is no small feat. In fact, only a few teams have won more games in that span, and Ohio State (110 wins) is one of them.
“I think it’s another great opportunity to prove that we are legit, that we are the team that we think we are,” tight end Troy Fumagalli, a former walk-on, said of the matchup with the Buckeyes. “I think it’s another great opportunity with another great team.”
The Buckeyes have an immense amount of talent. They’re one of the most talented in not only the Big Ten, but the country as well. At times, however, they haven’t shown up. There have been a number of occasions this season where Ohio State has failed to play up to their capabilities. Their 55-24 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes was the most drastic instance. On a weekly basis, the world can question as to which Ohio State team is going to show up.
The Badgers had moments where they didn’t play to their highest potential against lesser opponents, but still found a way to win. That’s the sign of a team that has things figured out despite not always being the most talented on the field.
Ohio State hasn’t had a game this season where they haven’t had the talent edge. Even in their two losses, the Buckeyes could make the argument that they had more individually talented pieces. In all of their wins, the Badgers have been able to say that the sum of their parts is greater than the individual pieces.