Stadium: Camp Randall (80,321)
2011 Record: 11-3
2012 Record: 7-3
Head Coach: Bert Bielema (7th year at Wisconsin, 67-22)
Letterman Returning: (41; lost - 16)
Returning Starters: Offense - 5; Defense - 6; Specialists - 0
Base Defense: 4-3
Base Offense: Power-I and Ace (2 Tight Ends)
Mike Webster - NFL Hall of Famer
Steve Miller - Musician (Steve Miller Band)
Charles Lindbergh - Aviator
Elroy Hirsch - Pro Football Hall of Famer
Frank Lloyd Wright - Architect
John Wilce - Former Buckeye football coach (in College Football Hall of Fame)
Greta Van Susteren - Television broadcaster
Bud Selig - MLB commissioner
Cheerleader Scouting Report:
Who saw this coming? A year after the Russell Wilson transfer worked so well, Badger fans thought another transfer, Danny O'Brien would be the man in 2012. When he disappointed the coaches turned to redshirt frosh Joel Stave. When he got hurt they tapped the little used redshirt senior Phillips, who has battle injuries throughout his career. He looked good against Indiana and now gets OSU!
The stud for the Badgers is senior Montee Ball who returned after rushing for 1923 yards and 33 TD's a year ago. After a slow start, Ball is back in form and comes into this game with 1226 yards and 16 TD's. There are bigger backs and faster runners in the nation, but nobody who runs tougher than Ball. He actually shares time with James White, giving the Badgers an incredible 1-2 punch.
The Badgers may be a running team but they have a big-time receiver in teh skinny Abbredaris. Playing with Wilson in 2011 he snared 55 catches for 933 yards. This year he has worked with three different quarterbacks but has still managed 38 catches for 698 yards and 5 TD's. He has made a bunch of big plays and now plays a team that has been burned a number of times in 2012.
The unquestioned leader of the Badger D is 5th year senior Taylor, who registered an eye popping 150 tackles last year, and so far in 2012 has 95 stops including 12 for loss. He is a hard-nosed prototypical linebacker, who pairs with Ohio native Chris Borland who has 82 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 6 passes defensed. These guys will test Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde for sure.
Another fifth year senior, Smith started way back in 2009 but came off the bench in 2010, and was hurt last year. This season he has been their best defesnive back, and has totaled 48 sacks, with 13 passes defensed, including 3 interceptions. He is solid against the run, and by far the best cover player on a team that has struggled to stop good passing attacks.
The surly Bielema is certainly not a Buckeye favorite, and seems to truly hate Ohio State. Despite his crying over Urban Meyer stealing Kyle Dodson, the big guy has done a pretty good job at Wisconsin. The UW fans were on his case after going 7-6 in his third season, but since then he has won 10,11 and 11 games coming into this year. A former offensive lineman, he loves physical football.
To Bielema's credit, he continued to make adjustments and mix things up during the slow start, and the Badgers have gotten back on track, winning four of the last five games, with the only loss coming in overtime to Michigan State.
Their most impressive outing was actually last week, when the Badgers cruised past Indiana 62-14 thanks to 564 yards of rushing. Yes, you read that correctly.
Speaking of rushing, the Badgers run game is their bread and butter per usual. The struggles early on were actually due to their inability to pound the ball against inferior teams, and their turnaround can be directly traced back to the running game getting going. Obviously, the man to watch is Montee Ball, who now has 1,226 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. Last week he put himself in second place all time in career touchdowns, one short of the record, and will be looking to break the record against the Buckeyes. Ball is hardly all they have though, Bielema and company will also showcase James White (647 yards, 8 TD) and freshman Melvin Gordon (346 yards, 2 TD), both of whom are averaging well over seven yards a carry.
It's a good thing that the running game has turned things around, because it has been an adventure at quarterback this season. After losing one year mercenary Russell Wilson. the Badgers put their hopes in yet another instant transfer in Danny O'Brien. The former Maryland quarterback started strong, but quickly digressed as the season progressed. Freshman Joel Stave would step in in the third game, and was leading the Badgers as a game manager, before going down for the season against Michigan State. O'Brien returned and was clearly not the answer, so now fifth year senior Curt Phillips is the man. Last week against Indiana he went 4/7 for 41 yards and a touchdown, but added 68 yards rushing on seven carries. He will likely have to throw the ball much more against the Buckeyes for Wisconsin to grab a win.
Phillips options in the passing game are somewhat limited. The only player of real note is former walk-on Jared Abbrederis, who has 689 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He's averaging 18.1 a catch, and as the Buckeyes know, is a deep threat. Also keep an eye on tight end Jacob Pedersen (264 yards, 3 TD), who has been very involved the last three games.
Finally on offense is the offensive line. The unit was much maligned early on, but after a coaching change by Bielema have really looked sharp. They are absolutely huge, too, and will definitely challenge the Buckeyes front four on Saturday.
On defense, the Badgers have given up 309 yards per game, most of those coming through the air. Their strength of schedule is somewhat questionable though, and the best offense they have faced this season, Nebraska, mounted 440 yards on them. The Buckeyes should present their toughest test yet.
The Badgers have been led by a strong group of linebackers including Mike Taylor (95 tackles, 12 TFL) and Chris Boreland (82 tackles, 4.5 sacks), though Boreland is hampered by a hamstring and could miss the game.
On the defensive line keep an eye on end David Gilbert, who have 7 TFL, four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. In the secondary Devin Smith is the leader, who not only has 48 tackles, but also has three interceptions and 10 pass break ups.
Camp Randall Stadium is the host of Saturday's contest, and it has been a very unfriendly place for the Buckeyes to come in and play. Though this isn't a night game, the Badger fans will be raucous as always, and will be hoping to see Urban Meyer's first loss as the head coach of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State enters the game on a surge of momentum. Not only are they coming off their two most complete games this season, but have had two weeks to rest thanks to a bye week. The team was very banged up though, and the rest was something that was desperately needed, though it will be interesting to see how the teams performs after the break. Meyer will be looking to perform better coming out of bye weeks than Tressel did.
One would expect the Buckeyes to come out prepared, and while the Wisconsin defense is rated highly, they've been porous against good competition and mobile quarterbacks. Like everyone else, they will try to limit Braxton's effectiveness on the ground, and if he has even an average day throwing the ball it would go a long way in giving the Buckeyes the victory.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State will have to slow down Montee Ball and the Badger running game. This much maligned defense has been best against traditional power teams (see Penn State and Michigan State), and one would expect them to be able to slow down the Badgers in the same way. That being said, this is a huge offensive line, and if the game is close in the 4th quarter, one would expect them to have the advantage.
Drew: Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 21