The teams: The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (12-0, 9-0) vs the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1)
The time: 7 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis, Ind.
The TV coverage: FOX with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt in the booth, and Jenny Taft on the sideline.
The last time: No. 2 Ohio State came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime 38-31 last October in Madison.
The series: Ohio State leads 58-18-5
The line: Ohio State -6
The Badgers injury report:
TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
OLB Noah Burks (leg)
WR Quintez Cephus (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)
RB Bradrick Shaw (leg)
THE BREAKDOWN: FOUR THINGS TO WATCH
1) Biggest game in school history
It may seem like hyperbole, but Saturday night’s game is the biggest in Wisconsin football history. A win against one of the blue bloods of the sport would give the Badgers their first Big Ten title since 2012, almost surely punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff and leave them just two victories short of the school’s first national championship. A loss wouldn’t make the season a failure, but it would be looked at as a missed opportunity to make a splash the rest of the country couldn’t ignore, one that would force the doubters to at least respect what the program has become. This is not the first time Wisconsin has been in position to make that statement but it’s certainly its best and something the Badgers can’t let fall by the wayside.
2) Containing J.T. Barrett
The big story this week has been the knee injury to Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, the one that knocked him out in the third quarter of last week’s game at Michigan. The senior reportedly had arthroscopic surgery on the knee on Sunday, but coach Urban Meyer is expecting him to play. If he does, then it becomes vital for the Wisconsin defense to keep him in the pocket. In last season’s game, Barrett was Ohio State’s leading rusher with 92 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. It’s not that he can’t beat you with his arm — he can — but if you’re Wisconsin, you want to force him to show it again.
3) No turnovers
Wisconsin is a bit of anomaly this season. You don’t normally see an unbeaten team like the Badgers turn the ball over as much as they do. They rank No. 97 in the country with 21 turnovers and there are only three FBS teams with a winning record that have more than that. It’s not an every player problem. In fact, it’s mainly a two player issue — quarterback Alex Hornibrook and running back Jonathan Taylor. The duo has accounted for 18 of the 21 turnovers this year. Wisconsin’s defense has been able to erase many of those mistakes, but you sure don’t want to put them in that position against the most explosive offense the Badgers have faced this year.
When people hear the term redemption in regards to this game, most probably think of the 59-0 shellacking that Ohio State delivered to Wisconsin in the 2014 title game. But they would be wrong. Sure, that one hurt, but that game was over almost as soon as it started. No, the game the Badgers want (need?) redemption for is the 2016 title game when they blew a 28-7 lead to Penn State and lost 38-31. A defense that was so good all year, got exposed with big plays down the field and some brilliance from All-American running back Saquon Barkley. Nearly all of Wisconsin’s defenders from that game are still around and have told the media this week they believe they learned some valuable lessons as a result of that collapse. We could see if that’s true on Saturday night.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
Wisconsin is an underdog for the first time in 20 games. The last time the Badgers weren’t favored was the Buckeyes visit to Camp Randall Stadium last October.
Current or former walk-ons have combined for 862 yards of total offense, seven touchdowns, 117 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks and four interceptions this season for Wisconsin.
The Badgers are allowing just 236.9 yards per game, the lowest mark by a Wisconsin team since 1954.
A couple of the better hype videos to get you ready for the game:
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 21
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 24
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21
Danny Cunningham’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21
Eric Single, SI.com: Wisconsin
Molly Geary, SI.com: Wisconsin
Andy Staples, SI.com: Wisconsin
Joan Niesen, SI.com: Wisconsin
Paul Myerberg, USA Today: Wisconsin
George Schroeder, USA Today: Wisconsin
Erick Smith, USA Today: Wisconsin
Eddie Timanus, USA Today: Wisconsin
Dan Wolken, USA Today: Wisconsin
Corby Davidson, Sportsday: Wisconsin
Rich Cirminiello, College Football News: Wisconsin
Jeff Feyerer, College Football News: Wisconsin
Pete Fiutak, College Football News: Wisconsin
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports: Wisconsin
Ohio State (18)
Edward Aschoff, ESPN: Ohio State
Zac Al-Khateeb, Sporting News: Ohio State
Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports: Ohio State
Bruce Feldman, SI.com: Ohio State
Chris Johnson, SI.com: Ohio State
Scooby Axson, SI.com: Ohio State
Jace Evans, USA Today: Ohio State
Ben Baby, Sportsday: Ohio State
Scott Bells, Sportsday: Ohio State
Chuck Carlton, Sportsday: Ohio State
Adam Grosbard, Sportsday: Ohio State
Ric Renner, Sportsday: Ohio State
Newy Scruggs, Sportsday: Ohio State
Kevin Sherrington, Sportsday: Ohio State
Brett Vito, Sportsday: Ohio State
Ralph Russo, Associated Press: Ohio State
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: Ohio State
Bryan Bischer, Athlon Sports: Ohio State