The first time Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor faced Ohio State took place where he'll find himself on Saturday evening — in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium with the Big Ten Championship on the line.
That first meeting happened in 2017, and he entered the contest as one of the most dynamic freshman in the country. Throughout the first 12 games of his collegiate career, he had averaged a hair under 140 rushing yards per game with 13 rushing touchdowns to his name.
All his fourth-ranked Badgers needed to do was beat the No. 8 Buckeyes to advance to their first ever College Football Playoff.
Ohio State had different plans for Wisconsin that night, focusing its game plan around limiting Taylor. The young back who had gashed every defense he had faced to that point was held to a season-low 41 rushing yards (and no touchdowns) on 15 carries.
The Buckeyes went on to win 27-21.
Nearly two years went by before Taylor saw that Ohio State team again, but the sledding was just as tough the second time around. That took place on the last Saturday of October, when Wisconsin visited Ohio Stadium and left on the losing end of a 38-7 blowout. Wisconsin's touted running back carried the ball 20 times for just 52 yards.
It was two uncharacteristic performances for a running back who's actively rewriting the NCAA record book. Taylor entered the season as the only player in college football history to start his collegiate career with at least 1,900 rushing yards (1,977 rushing yards in 2017, 2,194 rushing yards in '18).
Outside of his performance against Ohio State, he's continued his assault on the those record books this fall. In Wisconsin's win over Nebraska last month, Taylor broke Herschel Walker's rushing record for a player in his first three seasons. Georgia's Walker finished his third season in 1982 with 5,596 yards.
Taylor's been named a consensus first-team freshman All American, a consensus first-team All-Big Ten running back in each of his first three seasons and a Doak Walker Award winner (2018).
Essentially, there are few things Taylor hasn't accomplished in his fantastic three-year stint at Wisconsin. A good game against Ohio State is one of those things.
The Badgers didn't have a lot of answers for Taylor's struggles in either of his two matchups against the Buckeyes.
“They have some good players, and a good D-line. To be able to throw the ball, we have to be crisp in all situations. We also have to be able to establish a running game, and that falls on everybody,” Wisconsin receiver A.J. Taylor said after the 31-point loss to Ohio State.
Taylor gets a third and likely final attempt to beat the Buckeyes this Saturday, and he's eager to finally break out.
"I’m very motivated," Taylor said in the lead up to the game this week. "My team is going to try and lean on me to make plays and I gotta make sure I am ready this week and have a great week of preparation so when my number is called, I am able to go out and execute."
If Taylor can't execute, Ohio State will likely seal the top spot in this year's College Football Playoff.