Joshua Perry came to Ohio State to play in games like this one — to go up against one of the country's best players on the biggest stage.
“That’s kind of what you look forward to as a Big Ten linebacker is getting those guys," Perry said.
Perry and his sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will take on star running back Melvin Gordon and No. 14 Wisconsin on Saturday night in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship. This much we know.
It will be Ohio State's much-improved defense, ranked 19th in the country, against the Badgers' vaunted rushing attack, ranked second nationally, headlined by the best running back in all of college football.
But the Buckeyes' defense hasn't been perfect this season. Far from it, really.
It's a unit which gave up 536 yards of offense less than a month ago to Michigan State. And on Saturday against arch-rival Michigan — which entered the game as one of the Big Ten's worst offenses — it allowed 372 yards, 27 first downs as the Wolverines held the ball for more than 34 minutes.
But perfection wasn't necessarily needed from Ohio State's defense when its offense was scoring at a 44 points-per-game clip. They were able to win both of those ballgames and nine others along the way.
However, with the recent injury to the Buckeyes' starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett, there are all of a sudden question marks surrounding an offense that had been so dynamic all season long as Cardale Jones takes the reins as the leader of Ohio State's offense.
"He's got the keys to the car," head coach Urban Meyer said.
With sudden uncertainties surrounding the Buckeye offense, one might think that would add more pressure to an Ohio State defense that already had a tough task in trying to slow down Gordon. The Buckeyes don't necessarily feel that way, though.
“I never want to say that the defense has to go out there and win a game, but I will say in these past few weeks we said that we don’t want to be known as an OK defense with an offense that puts up a lot of points," Perry said. "It’s been our goal to be able to try to hold teams to small totals and this week it will be really important to do that just given the situation, but I know we’ve got a lot of weapons on offense and Cardale is really good. He’s a capable quarterback so I’m not too worried about that.”
Ohio State's defense may not have to win the game against the Badgers, but it certainly can't allow things to come apart like they did a year ago in the same game against Michigan State.
The Buckeyes know that. But they also know what type of challenge awaits them in Indianapolis.
"We’ll have our work cut out for us, but like I say every week it’s going to be about preparation so we’re going to come out here tomorrow and we’re going to prepare really hard," Perry said. "We started to put some game plan stuff in today as guys were coming through so we’ll see what we got. We’ll look at some film and then we’ll get to work.”