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Can Bucks make statement?

October 28, 2011
By RICH GIBSON - Buckeye Blitz ( , Times Leader

After posting a key road win at Illinois, the Buckeyes' express was halted by the infamous open date.

Hopefully, Luke Fickell, his staff and the players spent that extra time viewing film and working overtime preparing for what lies ahead - a Homecoming date against Wisconsin's Badgers.

Exactly how impressive OSU's 17-7 victory at Champaign is not certain, considering the once mighty 6-0 Illini followed with a 21-14 road loss at Purdue.

This much is certain: Coach Bret Bielema's 6-1 ball club may still be the Big Ten's premier team despite the Badgers' exasperating 37-31 game-ending loss last weekend at Michigan State.

All of which makes for a Saturday night special in the Horseshoe when Wisconsin invades for a nationally televised 8:00 kickoff.

At stake is a legitimate opportunity for OSU to make a dramatic midseason statement by avenging last year's loss at Madison.

Far easier said than done, most likely versus a Badgers' offense ranked No. 5 nationally in scoring (47.3 points).

Additionally, Wisconsin averages 252 rushing yards and 511 total yards behind redshirt senior quarterback Russell Wilson who leads the conference in passing efficiency. Wilson enters Saturday's game with 1,780 passing yards, good for 16 touchdowns.

In a midweek session with the media in Madison, Wilson spoke of Saturday night's game. "We have a great opportunity playing at Ohio State. It doesn't get much better than that, one of the greatest places to play in the country."

Bielema's most difficult task this week may have been circling the wagons and regrouping his team following a dramatic loss.

"The plane ride home was extremely quiet. I think the kids really absorbed the defeat (at Michigan State). After going through film, I saw a lot of things we need to clean up."

The Badgers' boss took notes viewing film of OSU's road verdict at Illinois.

"Ohio State, as they've gotten further into the season, has really settled in, it appears," Bielema suggests. "They look more like the traditional Ohio State. Their defense is playing extremely well, playing with that attitude and swagger you're used to seeing."

In addition to Wilson's production, Wisconsin's offensive weapons include leading rusher Montee Ball, a 5-11, 210-pound junior. Ball has 768 yards off 125 carries. The Missouri native has recorded a team-leading 17 touchdowns.

Sophomore James White (5-10, 195) is a reliable backup having logged 458 yards and four TDs. Wilson is a legit third option with 212 yards and three scores.

A familiar name tops Badgers' receivers. Nick Toon, a 6-3, 220-pound redshirt senior, has 27 catches for a team-high 505 yards and six scores.

With 30 grabs, totaling 482 yards and two TDs is 6-2, 180-pound sophomore Jared Abbrederis, a home grown product.

On the offensive line, seniors Kevin Zeitler (6-4, 315) and Josh Oglesby (6-7, 330) show the way along with juniors Peter Konz (6-5, 315) and Ricky Wagner (6-6, 320).

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland (5-1, 245) is among the Big Ten's finest. The Kettering, Oh. native has logged a team-leading 71 tackles, including two QB sacks and a pass theft.

Another rugged hitman is 6-2, 230-pound junior Mike Taylor who has 64 stops to his credit.

Buckeyes' freshman quarterback Braxton Miller will likely be visited by Badgers' 6-4, 255-pound defensive end Louis Nzegwu, a redshirt senior who's compiled five sacks.

At the other end, 6-6, 255-pound Brendan Kelly brings the heat and has three sacks.

In the secondary, 6-0, 210-pound junior safety Aaron Henry has recorded two pass thefts as has 5-9, 190-pound senior cornerback Antonio Fenelus.

The return of Boom Herron was a welcome addition to OSU's offense at Illinois. Herron's season debut resulted in 114 yards and a TD.

In Herron's absence, Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall split tailback duty. Hyde's 408 yards (five TDs) leads the Bucks while Hall has 321 yards and a score.

Miller's 243 rushing stripes enhances the attack. Through the air, the Bucks' plebe is 26-of-51 for 4-3 yards and five touchdowns.

Tight end Jake Stoneburner owns 12 receptions with half that total resulting in touchdowns. Freshman Devin Smith has compiled a team-leading 187 reception yards with classmate Verlon Reed contributing 132 yards.

It remains to be seen why freshman wideout Evan Spencer has not earned more minutes, considering the rookie has two catches for 66 yards, including a 33-yard scoring reception against Michigan State.

Defensively, linebacker Andrew Sweat has logged a team-leading 49 stops, including five for negative yardage.

John Simon continues in his role as OSU's best pass rusher. Simon leads the Bucks both in sacks (three) and tackles (seven) for minus yardage.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Bradley Roby leads the Bucks and is tied in the Big Ten with three interceptions. Roby's 36-yard pick and ensuing runback set up OSU's first touchdown at Illinois.

Cornerback C.J. Barnett has contributed a pair of pass thefts and has 21 tackles, including three for minus yardage.


ALL-AMERICA center Mike Brewster started his 43rd consecutive game is a leading candidate for the Rimington Trophy and is also recognized on the Outland Trophy watch list....

OHIO STATE will play its 68th consecutive home game in front of 100,000 or more Saturday evening...The Buckeyes' defense has allowed an average 13.6 points over the last six seasons. That is the best scoring defense among FBS teams during the span. Texas Christian ranks second at 14.2 points per game....

FOLLOWING Saturday night's game, the Buckeyes remain home to face Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 5. Kickoff has been set for noon...



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