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The Ohio State Buckeyes host the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday afternoon in a game with national implications. The Buckeyes are ranked third in the country following their seventh straight win, while Wisconsin lost to Illinois over the weekend in the biggest upset of the season. Ohio State could earn another resume'-boosting win Saturday, whereas the Badgers must win if they want to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt.
Ohio State boasts one of the best offenses in the country led by quarterback Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins. The Buckeyes rank third nationally in rushing yards. Wisconsin, of course, has an elite running back of its own in Jonathan Taylor. The Heisman candidate has seven rushing touchdowns over the last three games. Ultimately this matchup should be a defensive struggle. Wisconsin and Ohio State have the top two scoring defenses in the country.
Wisconsin hopes to regroupThe Wisconsin Badgers' stunning defeat at Illinois may have ruined any chance of earning a College Football Playoff spot. Certainly, Wisconsin must be Ohio State and win out the rest of the way to even be in contention. The Illinois loss provided a worst-case scenario where the Badgers committed costly turnovers at the wrong times, none bigger than the interception quarterback Jack Coan threw in the final minutes to set up the Illinois game-winning field goal. Wisconsin was let down on defense, too. The Badgers recorded four shutouts in their first six games, making the poor performance all the more surprising.
Illinois exposed some holes in the Wisconsin defensive formation, as the Fighting Illini recorded scoring plays of 48, 43, and 29 yards. Wisconsin's defense entered the game leading the nation in points and yards allowed and those ranking still stand. The Badgers are not as invincible as once thought, however.
Offensively, Wisconsin has at times struggled to get the passing game up to speed. Coan averages just north of 200 passing yards per game. Wisconsin's inability to pass effectively leads to predictable running calls. As good as Jonathan Taylor is, he can't be expected to carry the offense on his shoulders. Taylor had a season-low 80 rushing yards against Michigan State a few weeks ago. The Spartans defense was able to hold him to about three yards per carry.
Ohio State looks to stay perfectThe Ohio State Buckeyes have shown no signs of slowing down in recent weeks. First-year head coach Ryan Day has the program excelling on both sides of the football. OSU is fifth nationally in offensive yardage and second in scoring defense. However, the Buckeyes may in for their biggest challenge this Saturday with a showdown against Wisconsin. The Badgers defense is a hair better than OSU's according to the numbers.
First, a look at Ohio State's vaunted offense. The Buckeyes rank third in the country with over 287 rushing yards per game. Junior back J.K. Dobbins has topped 170 yards on the ground in three of the last five games. He averages an absurd 7.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Justin Fields can move with his feet, too. The sophomore has five rushing touchdowns in the last five games. OSU's big offensive line deserves plenty of credit for creating space.
Fields is also developing into a reliable passer. His 94.5 quarterback rating ranks third in all of college football. He has thrown 22 touchdowns to one interception. Saturday will provide his toughest test yet. Fields has plenty of targets to thrown to, as 10 Buckeyes have recorded a receiving touchdown. Sophomore Chris Olave has six touchdown catches alone.
Greg Mattison, Co-Defensive Coordinator, discusses the Wisconsin offense.
"They’re very well coached. This is a very good coaching staff. They do an outstanding job. They recruit big, strong players up front for their system, and now they got some great skill with it. They’re just a very talented team and a very well-coached coached team, and they’ll play extremely hard."
Defensively, Ohio State is as consistent as they came. The Buckeyes give up an average of eight points per game on 229 total yards. The secondary has come up with 10 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Safety Jordan Fuller and linebacker Malik Harrison lead the team with 37 tackles apiece.
- Buckeyes are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game.
- Buckeyes are 6-0 ATS in their last six conference games.
- Buckeyes are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win.
- Badgers are 1-5 ATS in their last six games against Ohio State.
- Wisconsin are 1-4 ATS in their last five games when playing on the road against Ohio State.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Ohio State comes into this one off its most dominant win of the season (a 52-3 victory at Northwestern). Wisconsin suffered a heart breaker at Illinois over the weekend. Illinois exploited Wisconsin's defense with a number of long runs and passes, and Ohio State will surely look to replicate that success.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor hasn't seen the level of production he'd like in recent weeks, and he'll have a hard time finding much running room against OSU's defensive line. The Buckeyes hold opponents to about 92 rushing yards per game. Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan isn't a good enough passer to compensate for a lack of success on the ground.
Ohio State, of course, is also up against a very tough defense. The Buckeyes have more flexibility in their playbook, though. Quarterback Justin Fields has emerged as one of the most dangerous dual-threat QBs in the game. J.K. Dobbins is often overlooked compared to Taylor but has a knack for finding the end zone.
Go with Ohio State here.
Prediction: Ohio State Buckeyes -14
Full-Game Total Pick
With the top two scoring defenses in the nation going head to head, the under absolutely feels like the correct call here. The Badgers and Buckeyes both do a great job of snuffing out the run, and their secondaries aren't bad either. Ohio State has not allowed more than 10 points in a game since Week 1, while Wisconsin has recorded four shutouts in seven games. It would be very uncharacteristic of either defense to give up somewhere from three to four touchdowns.
I do expect Ohio State to score quite a few more points than Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have scored at least 34 points in every home game this season. While those matchups weren't against an elite defense like Wisconsin, Ohio State has proven it can score in bunches against almost anyone. Wisconsin's offense is more of a question mark. Coan has only thrown for nine touchdowns all season, and Taylor has been limited to one score in two of the past four games.
The under is the right call.
Prediction: Under 49.5