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Buckeyes trek to Wisconsin

November 16, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Buckeye Blitz (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Rested, re-charged and ready.

All three should be adjectives to describe the Ohio State Buckeyes who are back to work and will be back on the road Saturday afternoon following their bye week.

The Buckeyes are seeking their 11th win in a row when they head north to Wisconsin in a Leaders Division showdown.

While there's no doubt that Michigan is Ohio State's top rival, the annual meeting with the Badgers is quickly evolving into a heated rivalry even though the Buckeyes have traditionally had Wisconsin's number.

Actually, the all-time series between the two universities is 54-18-5 in favor of the Buckeyes. However, the last time OSU visited the Cheese State, Wisconsin was a 31-18 victor against a Buckeyes' team that had just ascended to No. 1 in the country.

Many of the upperclassmen on this team remember that game quite vividly.

"I'm learning more and more about this rivalry," Meyer said. "I think they stole a season. Some of the guys were telling me that story. It's interesting to hear our players talk about it, especially the ones I listen to. This is a rivalry game because you have to understand who you're playing and what they've done the last few years. So, they're a pretty good team."

Even though most of the Buckeyes were home watching football in their living rooms last week, they did earn something.

Because of what went on around them, Ohio State earned at least a share of the Leaders Division title. They can clinch the crown with a win this week because Michigan is in the Legends Division.

Though they're ineligible for a bowl, Meyer won't allow his team to lose focus on just having "part" of the title because they want the whole thing.

"We haven't won," Meyer stressed. "We're co winners as of now, but we didn't win it. We win this game and I think we are the winners. That's really important to us."

Despite not playing and still being just one of four remaining undefeated teams in America, Ohio State slipped to sixth in the Associated Press rankings this week.

While there are many venues in the Big Ten Meyer has never visited outside of maybe as a media member during his stint with ESPN last season, Madison doesn't fall into that category.

"I was up there with Coach (Earle) Bruce as a graduate assistant," Meyer said. "It's a great college atmosphere. It's a great town and a great atmosphere."

To help combat that atmosphere, OSU practiced much of the week with the noise cranked up during their practices. They also had "Jump Around" blasting over the loud speakers during their Wednesday practice. That song is played prior to the fourth quarter starting every week at Camp Randall Stadium.

While the Buckeyes took the week off, the Badgers were locking up their trip to Indianapolis for the second annual Big Ten Championship Game on the first Saturday in December by virtue of a 62-14 thrashing of Indiana.

In that game, the Badgers ran wild ... literally. Accumulating 564 yards on the ground, the Badgers basically did away with their passing game. Those stats are alarming for the Ohio State coaching staff and players, but the one real positive is that OSU's rush defense has been amongst the conference and nation's best this fall.

"What they do a nice job of is just these multitudes of shifts and formations," Meyer said. "They also use motions that are hard to get gap control or gap security on. We spent a lot of time on that during the bye week."

When you talk about or focus on the Badgers' ground game the name you need to worry about is senior Montee Ball. The Heisman Trophy finalist from last season is enjoying another huge season.

While rushing for 1,226 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, Ball has etched his name into several running back categories of the NCAA record book.

For his career, he's scored 77 touchdowns, which puts him just one behind the record for total touchdowns. He's also the active NCAA leader in touchdowns, rushing touchdowns (71), points (464) and rushing yards (4,536).

"(Ball) started slow, but I don't put that on him," Meyer said. "I thought they had a lot of transition in coaching staff. They're probably a little more creative in the running game than they were earlier in the year. His strengths are great vision and he's a really fast player. He pulls away from angles, and his toughness. You can give him the ball a bunch of times and he just keeps getting stronger. He'll be a very good NFL back."

Along with the change in offensive coordinators because Paul Chryst departed Madison for the head coaching job at Pitt, Ball was also assaulted prior to the season, which caused him to get off to a slower start.

Senior Curt Phillips has taken over the quarterback duties. He's more of a game manager. He's stepped in for Danny O'Brien, who was expected to fill the role of Russell Wilson after he transferred from Maryland during the off-season.

Junior Jared Abbrederis is back as one of the Badger receivers. He's having another big season. He's caught 38 balls for 689 yards and five touchdowns. He had a big game for the Badgers against OSU last year.

The Buckeyes' defense has made significant strides ever since Meyer showed up in their meeting on a Sunday afternoon following their win at Indiana.

Ohio State is only allowing 107 yards per game on the ground, but have been touched up for 259 a week through the air.

Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier has fully established himself as the defensive leader. He's twice been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and averages almost 10 tackles a game.

Sophomore defensive back Christian Bryant has also been impressive. He's second on the team with 61 tackles. Travis Howard has been impressive with four interceptions.

Those guys have fully complemented the front four, which has been steady throughout. John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel and Nathan Williams. Zach Boren has done extremely well in his conversion to linebacker.

The Buckeyes' defense is expected to receive another lift when senior linebacker Etienne Sabino returns to the lineup after he was injured against Nebraska earlier this season.

"I can't tell you what percent (Sabino's) at, but he's in the starting lineup for the game." Meyer said.

The Buckeyes' offense, meanwhile, will look to regain the form it had against Illinois and that's using a punishing ground game.

With Braxton Miller (184-1,166-13td) and Carlos Hyde (144-758-13td) leading the way, the Buckeyes' offense has been potent. It's scoring at a 39.9 points per game clip, which ranks 12th nationally. Ohio State actually churns out 256.1 yards per game on the ground, which is eighth best in the country.

The passing game has gotten better with Miller becoming more and more comfortable. He's passed for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns. Philly Brown and Devin Smith are the primary options with 48 and 24 catches, respectively. Jake Stoneburner and Evan Spencer have also been solid.

While the skill people have gotten steadily better as the season has gone alone, Meyer credits most of the offensive success to the play of the offensive line. The one drawback for this week possible is that Corey Linsley is banged up, but Meyer expects him to be able to go Saturday.

The Wisconsin defense is led by former Kettering Alter standout Chris Borland at middle linebacker. He has 82 tackles and was singled out by Meyer during his press conference.

Linebacker Mike Taylor has also had a solid season with 95 tackles. Junior defensive tackles Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer are space eaters on the interior of the Badgers' defense.

 
 
 

 

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