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Scouting Wisconsin: OSU looking to “jump” on Badgers early

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Michigan State's Demetrious Cox (7) tackles Wisconsin's Corey Clement (6) during second-half action on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. Wisconsin won, 30-6. (Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Michigan State’s Demetrious Cox (7) tackles Wisconsin’s Corey Clement (6) during second-half action on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. Wisconsin won, 30-6. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Last week, even after a 38-17 victory over Indiana at Ohio Stadium, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were disappointed in the team’s performance as a whole. After struggling to find a rhythm against the Hoosiers in the passing game and giving up a few big plays, the Scarlet and Gray will be facing their biggest test of the year this Saturday against Wisconsin.

The Badgers have been a tough team to beat this season, losing just one game to Michigan in the team’s last contest. The loss did not force Wisconsin outside of the top 10, and the hard fought 14-7 game against the Wolverines proved the validity of the team in this year’s playoff picture.

Presenting one of the best defenses in college football, Wisconsin will be hosting OSU in the comforts of Camp Randall Stadium, home to historically rowdy fans that can create a difficult atmosphere for opposing teams to play in. If OSU wants to keep a perfect record, the errors from the Indiana game will need to be corrected, and the Buckeyes will need a team effort to pick up a win in Madison, Wisconsin.

Last time the teams met, OSU put a 59-0 thumping on Wisconsin during the Big Ten championship. This year, the team is different, and Meyer knows it.

“(The championship game) really has nothing to do with this one,” Meyer said. “But, obviously, it was a historic moment.”

Offense

In years past, the Badgers have enjoyed a high-powered offense. Most recently, now San Diego Charger Melvin Gordon led the offensive attack for Wisconsin from the backfield, but this is not the same kind of unit that faced OSU in the 2014 Big Ten championship.

Wisconsin has depended on the play of both redshirt senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook at quarterback to lead the offense. Both players have struggled with consistency this season, accumulating a 59 percent completion average and just six touchdowns, along with seven interceptions.

Hornibrook was the go-to guy for Wisconsin in its last contest. However, he failed to impress, going 9-for-25 for just 88 yards, one touchdown and three picks. Although he still is listed as the starter, more inconsistent play by the redshirt freshman might pave the way for Houston to make an appearance against the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin junior wide receiver Jazz Peavy leads the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions, but has yet to truly shine with a lack of consistent quarterback play. To score, the Badgers have leaned heavily on the run.

Totalling five touchdowns on the ground, senior running back Corey Clement has more scores responsible for than either quarterback from Wisconsin. Averaging 3.9 yards per carry, Clement has the speed to break an outside run, but the strength to push through the trenches.

Redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker said he feels his unit will be vital in stopping Clement and the rest of the Wisconsin rushing attack.

“I feel like we’re a very physical secondary even from the first week of the season,” he said. “I feel like we’re just coming up and making good plays and supporting the run. I just feel like we are doing what we’re supposed to. We’re covering, and we’re coming down and supporting when we are needed.”

Wisconsin might have an offense that fails to produce eye popping numbers in major statistical categories, but is more than enough to supplement its stout defense.

Defense

The true star of the Badger defense is junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt, brother of NFL Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt, the Wisconsin native has been a disruptive force off the edge all year long.

“He’s a good player; he’s like a walkout linebacker, D-end type of guy” said junior offensive tackle Jamarco Jones. “He’s a pretty good pass rusher. He’s good with his hands and stuff, so we have our work cut out for us. We have to come in with a game plan and execute and use our techniques and stuff.”

Watt has earned 5.5 sacks this season, which accounts for a third of the team’s sacks overall. Wisconsin has given up just 61 points through five games this season, averaging out to 12.2 points per game.

The Badgers defense gives up fewer than 300 yards per game, and is one of the best defenses in the nation at halting offensive attacks in the redzone. OSU has a high-powered offense that depends on big plays to move down the field, but Wisconsin has the kind of defense that is efficient at limiting long gains and potent scoring.

The key for OSU will be to attack quickly, not allowing the Badger defense to dissect each formation and play. Meyer said Wednesday he feels his team has been most successful through the years with an up-tempo approach, but will need to focus on moving the chains.

“Probably, historically, that’s been the case,” Meyer said. “We’ve had good conversation about that, so the one thing (is) you better get first downs when you go up-tempo.”

A tough run defense for Wisconsin is backed by a more than capable passing defense. Junior cornerback Derrick Tindal leads that unit, having earned three interceptions and five pass breakups to this point.

OSU might struggle against the most formidable defense it has faced all year, but look for redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and junior H-back Curtis Samuel to carry the load for the OSU offense.

Breakdown

This game has the making of a knockdown, drag-it-out brawl between two football powerhouses. Two stout defenses that lead the nation will clash against opposing offenses that find success in different ways.

While the defense of Wisconsin has the ability to shut down even the most prolific offenses in the nation, the Buckeyes offensive attack is unlike any other in the country.

Look for a bounce back game for OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who struggled last week. Although the pass rush for Wisconsin might cause problems on deep passes, the athleticism of the Texas native could create coverage problems for the Badgers.

The defense for the Buckeyes has forced turnovers in all but one game this year, and this game is shaping up to have more than one change of possession. Whether it be Houston or Hornibrook, the secondary for OSU has a good chance to snag another interception.

Even if these elements are in play for OSU, expect this one to come down to wire, with some late game heroics being the deciding factor.

Junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes said he’s never been to Camp Randall Stadium, but is excited for the crowd to be against him and his teammates. Feeding off the negativity of the away crowd has been a talking point for many of the Buckeyes all week, and they will need it if they hope to come out on top.

Strap in ladies and gentleman, this one is going to be good.

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