Wisky week folks. B1G football is here, the weather is getting colder while your heart grows warmer in anticipation of an epic showdown in the 'Shoe. The cupcakes are out of the way and now its time to skin a badger or two. Prepping you for the big game is Vico "The King of YouTubes", DJ "Gonzo" Byrnes and Jordan "You just got scooped by a sophomore" Wagner
Let's get to it. Don't forget to tip your bartender.
When Braxton Miller takes the field, will there be rust? If so, how quickly does he shake it off? Is he the same player with a brace on his knee? Discuss.
Vico: I'm unsure of the issue of rust. I can anticipate some rust throwing the ball, standing in the pocket and trying to do to Wisconsin what we started the game doing to both California and Florida A&M. It's why I think Ohio State will try to establish the run game first when Miller sees the field. Wisconsin's defense will likely anticipate this, but I think Ohio State has creative ways to solve that problem of running the ball that it has not shown on film yet. I strongly suspect Ohio State obliterated its four opponents this season while trying to be as vanilla as possible on both sides of the ball.
The issue of the knee brace is something altogether different. Miller's issue right now is lateral movement. If Miller makes his reads and hits the hole hard, I don't think we encounter the problem of the knee brace. If Miller gets antsy in the pocket and starts scrambling, then his movement is restricted by that knee brace. I recall an ill-advised scramble by Miller from last year's contest in Madison in which that brace may limit him if he tries that again.
DJ: I'm sure there will be, as it's only natural. I fully expect he'll be in the swing of things by the second quarter. As for if he'll be the same player, I'm excited for Braxton to get back onto the field and remind Buckeyes fans just how good he is; it's something easily forgotten due to the ascension of the Smooth Sensation.
Jordan: I don’t think we’ll see a rusty Braxton on Saturday.. That’s just an excuse if he doesn’t play well. He’s well rested and probably could have played last week, if it was a big game. Miller goes up against OSU’s defense everyday in practice. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be prepared for Wisconsin.
Meyer said he will wear a non-restrictive brace. The technology is so advanced that it will have little to no impact. A brace shouldn't limit Braxton's mobility much at all. Kenny Guiton would be the starter if Meyer didn’t believe that Braxton could be himself on Saturday, with or without a brace.
Carlos Hyde had 5 carries for 41 yards last week. Do the coaches get him more involved this week? Why or why not?
Vico: I think so. Ohio State's offense sputtered before basically breaking in the second half in last year's game (35 second half yards and zero points). Hyde was maybe the bright spot of that game, finishing with 87 yards rushing on 15 carries. He'll get a similar opportunity in this game. I don't think he ends up taking carries from Jordan Hall, but he will likely take them from Rod Smith. Ezekiel Elliott led the team in rushing against Florida A&M, but may not see many opportunities on Saturday.
DJ: I expect Carlos to have an expanded role, as he can do things Jordan Hall cannot. Carlos Hyde is the prototype of a B1G back and thus built for a game like that.
Jordan: I think he will definitely be more involved. He’s earned his carries back and we are going to need him. I think we could see Hyde break out for over 100 yards. Hyde has a chip on his shoulder and he is really playing for his NFL future, right now. All eyes on the Buckeyes this week.
Did Ezekiel Elliott earn carries against Wisconsin based on his performance last Saturday?
Vico: Elliott acquitted himself well with the carries he had and with the opportunities he was given. The problem is that Florida A&M is a noisy signal. By the time Elliott was in the game, the proverbial buses were already warming up. If he gets carries on Saturday, I think it was earned more in practice this week than it was in last Saturday's game.
DJ: Yes, Urban rewards results and Ezekiel definitely gave him those last week.
Jordan: Ezekiel Elliott played well, even if it was just Florida A&M. I don’t see him getting too many carries this week with Hyde, Hall, Smith and Dontre Wilson getting carries/snaps before him. Elliott is going to be a stud for OSU going forward, but we are just so deep, right now.
Wisconsin ranks 3rd in the nation in rushing yards per game (349.8). How do the Buckeyes shut this down? How many rushing yards will Wisconsin have when it's all said and done?
Vico: It's fun to dump on Wisconsin's schedule every year, so let's do that. Wisconsin's opponents include arguably the worst team in FBS (Massachusetts), a bad-by-FCS-standards Tennessee Tech team, Arizona State, and Purdue. It's hard to get a read on Tennessee Tech's quality at just 2-2 on the season, with one of those wins coming against an NAIA school. Wisconsin's other opponents include the country's 124th-ranked rushing defense (Massachusetts), the 80th-ranked rushing defense (Arizona State), and the 87th-ranked rushing defense (Purdue).
If those statistics seem skewed in a small sample by all playing Wisconsin, rest assured it is not. Last year, Massachusetts, Arizona State, and Purdue were the country's 117th, 83rd, and 79th rushing defense respectively. Wisconsin's rushing offense is great, but it's hard to know how great.
In all fairness, a similar comment can be made by the Wisconsin fan about our schedule.
The key to stopping Wisconsin's rushing game is the play of the interior defensive linemen. Guys like Hale, Bennett, and Carter have to keep Wisconsin's OL from getting to the second level. They didn't last year. Shazier was routinely bullied by Wisconsin's guards in last year's contests, which we do not want to happen again this year. This was a large reason why Wisconsin finished that game against the Buckeyes with 206 rushing yards (191 for Ball). Stopping Wisconsin's rushing game should work "inside-out". The more guys that have to walk into the box to stop Wisconsin's base stuff, the more likely we get torched on play-action, or end-arounded.
Wisconsin should finish with 150 yards rushing, or so. Some of that may be brute force. I don't think Wisconsin wants Joel Stave throwing the ball a lot.
DJ: I think the days of the shutdown defenses at Ohio State are over. I'm sure Wisconsin will have something around 100-150 yards on the ground total.
Jordan: They show up. Wisconsin is a very good running team, but they padded those stats against three bad defenses (Purdue, Tennessee Tech and UMass). Against Arizona State, the Badgers managed to still rush for 231. The best way to shut down their rushing attack? Get a lead early and force the Badgers to pass the ball. It’s hard to say how many rushing yards they’ll total. I think OSU will hold them to about 200 yards, maybe less if they abandon the running game.
Wisconsin ranks 6th in the nation in total team defense giving up only 243 yards per game. How many total yards will OSU tally?
Vico: We may have to qualify that total defense statistic by reference to the opposition. UMass and Purdue are 122nd and 123rd nationally in total offense, respectively. Tennessee Tech is still Tennessee Tech. Wisconsin's defense basically conceded the average to Arizona State (468 yards).
I'm optimistic about our prospects of moving the ball against Wisconsin. I'm not sure Arizona State did something against Wisconsin that we couldn't also do. While I'm optimistic, I also like to hedge bets downward. I'll go with 400 yards of offense.
DJ: Ohio State will have about 475 yards, I'd guess.
Jordan: 490 yards. Their defense is 6th in the nation in total defense because of their weak schedule. Arizona State was able to gain 468 yards against Wisconsin. Arizona State doesn’t have the weapons that Meyer has at his disposal. The Buckeyes shouldn’t have too much trouble moving the ball.
Who needs to have a big game for the Buckeyes to win this Saturday? Why?
Vico: I already mentioned them. I think it's Hale, Bennett, and Carter. Those guys have to preoccupy Wisconsin's guards and allow Shazier to attack the ball. Shazier is by far our best defender getting off blocks, but our defensive tackles need to make his job easier. They didn't last year, and it's why Wisconsin had such success running the ball in last year's contest (even if their drives stalled).
DJ: The offensive line. If they show up, the offense will be firing, and if the offense is firing, Ohio State will win comfortably.
Jordan: Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes just need him to do what he has done in the past. No heroics needed. Make good reads, both passing and in the option game. The QB is very important in Meyer’s offense. If Miller has a bad game, the game could go either way.
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Curtis Grant leading up to this game. How does he perform against Wisconsin?
Vico: It would be nice if Curtis Grant found this as his coming-out party that we were hoping he would have in 2011. Playing middle linebacker will put him less in a bind on play-action, though that still is a worry. I think he will perform well enough, but not do anything to grab our attention for the better. I wouldn't mind being wrong about that, though.
DJ: Urban seems to think the young man is at a cross-roads in his career. I hope he performs, because I hate seeing talent go to waste.
Jordan: It’s Curtis Grant’s time to shine. We’re going against a power running team and he should have plenty of opportunities, as we’ll probably be playing a lot of base 4-3. It’s time for him to step up. I’m not expecting a star being born on Saturday, but I always thought he was a good fit against a running team. He has struggled against the spread.
Who leads the team in rushing this Saturday?
DJ: Carlos Hyde. I will be wrong.
Jordan: I’ll go with Carlos Hyde as the leading rusher. He’s ready. OSU is going to need Hyde in this game and I think he has earned his carries back. I’m prepared for Hyde to come out with a 120 yard rushing effort.
Do these next two games (arguably the toughest on the schedule) make or break the season? Why or why not?
Vico: In a way, yes. Ohio State's Big Ten schedule is front-loaded, even if the games against Illinois and Iowa (for example) are looking more difficult now than they did in the pre-season. Despite not losing a game since January 2012, Ohio State is having to defend itself from its conference's sagging reputation. An uninspiring non-conference slate hasn't helped, neither has the rest of the conference. Ohio State needs a Clemsoning and for Oregon and Stanford to cannibalize each other (and, ideally, for the winner to lose some other game) if it is going to secure a #2 ranking when the BCS positions start to matter.
Ohio State's schedule is unexceptional this year when compared to Clemson and Oregon, but Ohio State's next two opponents are exceptional. They are the best on the schedule. Beating both, at night, will do wonders to validate Ohio State this season as pollsters search for reasons to drop Ohio State in the rankings in favor of other programs like Stanford, Louisiana State, and Florida State.
Losing to either one doesn't necessarily mean all is lost. There is still plenty of football left to be played. It might be the difference of a national championship campaign, though.
DJ: Every game makes or breaks the season at this point. Any loss means Ohio State can kiss their shot at the national title goodbye.
Jordan: The next two games can definitely break the season with a loss, but I wouldn’t say they could make the season. The goal has been a National Championship. A NC will not be won in the next two weeks, but the Buckeyes could surely eliminate themselves with a loss. The only game that will make the season is that game that will be played in Pasadena on January 6th.
What is your final score prediction?
Vico: 28-17, Ohio State. I don't see Ohio State's offense exploding, but I think we can do better against Wisconsin than we did last year, and on both sides of the ball.
DJ: I will be wrong, and if I'm not, it won't be anything but dumb luck: 52-34.
Jordan: Buckeyes win 36-24.
If you could go back in time and snatch up any former Buckeye player to place on this team who would it be? Why?
Vico: I don't think we need another tailback on the roster, but Howard Cassady is a trendy pick. Wisconsin entered Ohio Stadium with the AP #1 ranking for the first (and to date, only) time in its program's history. Cassady led the charge against the Badgers, finishing with 113 yards on nine carries, and 51 receiving yards with two touchdowns, in Ohio State's 23-14 win. Couldn't hurt to have that mojo with us.
A better addition may be Antoine Winfield. Cornerbacks who love to play run support are commodities, and Winfield may have been the best ever. Putting him on the field as either a nickelback (as he was as a true freshman), or at corner opposite Roby, would be quite a pairing.
DJ: Jack Tatum, because he would put the fear of the Almighty into kids these days.
Jordan: James Laurinaitis. We could use a LB to anchor the middle of our defense since the spot is considered our weak point. Ted Ginn Jr. would be put up huge numbers in Meyer’s offense, but I am not worried about our offense, at all.