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Badgers visit ‘The ’Shoe’

September 30, 2013
By SETH STASKEY - Buckeye Blitz (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

College football offers no official pre-season games.

However, Ohio State is entering the real part of its schedule this week.

Big Ten Conference play opens this week around the league as the undefeated Buckeyes host their first of two night games at Ohio Stadium.

"The Big Ten season is starting and this is our goal and focus," said Buckeyes' head coach Urban Meyer at his weekly press conference.

The Buckeyes aren't only preparing for conference play. They're also preparing for their toughest game to date as No. 23 ranked Wisconsin makes its way to Columbus in what's seemingly developed into one of the Big Ten's top games year in and year out.

"We have a ton of respect for Wisconsin," Meyer said. "I think this will be a classic game. Our preparation has to be good and we have to make sure we cross all of our Ts and dot all of our I's because this kind of game could come down to one or two series."

While this the Buckeyes' first conference opponent, the Badgers are actually 1-0 in league play, having defeated Purdue last week, 41-10. All told, Wisconsin comes into the game with a 3-1 record. Its lone loss was a controversial one at Arizona State two weeks ago wen the PAC-12 officials admitted they didn't get the ball spotted quick enough.

"We've not received a challenge like this one," Meyer said. "California was a challenge, but not like this one's going to be. Our players understand that, too."

The Buckeyes are 4-0 and have won 16 regular season games in a row since Meyer became the head coach. That's the longest winning streak in the country.

Ohio State concluded the non-conference part of its season with a 76-0 pasting of FCS member Florida A&M last week. The Buckeyes racked up more than 600 yards and didn't throw a pass in the second half of that game.

Plus, they played all sorts of players, allowing them to gain experience.

"I was happy with how we came out of the chute fast," Meyer said. "We wanted to make sure our guys played well and respected the game at the same time."

Since so many of the Buckeyes' first unit didn't play much because the game so out of hand early, Ohio State practiced much more than it normally does on Sunday as it try to make up for some of the lost reps.

"As much as you like coaching in those one-sided games, the competitive spirit of the whole thing is what really gets you going for games like this one," Meyer said.

Meyer was asked whether or not his team would be prepared to play an entire 60 minutes mentally after having such a lopsided game just before conference play.

"That's why we practice the way we do to prepare for these situations," Meyer said. "Tuesday's practice is every big as hard, or maybe even harder, than game days. Our guys learned to play the the entire game at Cal."

The weekly question as to who the Buckeyes' quarterback will be has been heavily talked about again. Meyer proclaimed that Braxton Miller will return the starting quarterback's job after Wednesday evening's practice.

Kenny Guiton, who threw six touchdowns and was named Big Ten co Offensive Player of the Week last week, will return to his role as backup, but has earned some action.

"I am very comfortable with both quarterbacks," Meyer said. "We're going to practice Braxton really hard this week to try to shake off any rust there might be. I hoped to get him in there last week, but he just wasn't stable enough. Myself, our strength coach (Mickey Marotti) and our quarterbacks coach (Tom Herman) all got together and made the decision."

Whether it's Miller or Guiton hasn't affected the Badgers' preparation, according to first-year head coach Gary Anderson.

"It doesn't matter, whoever's in there," Anderson said. "One guy might be a little better than the other, but you don't look in there and think, 'here comes this guy or that guy, so let's expect this or that offense."

Regardless of who's been the quarterback, the Buckeyes' offense has been playing at a very high level. They're averaging 529 yards a game offensively and scoring 52.5 points a game, which leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally.

"If you watch the tape from a year ago to now, it's obvious that they've made an emphasis to recruit speed in a lot of different areas on the offensive side of the ball," Anderson said.

While the weekly focus has been on who's going to play quarterback, the fact of the matter is Ohio State has plenty of options in the offensive attack, especially with Carlos Hyde back to join Jordan Hall in the backfield.

The Ohio State running game is averaging 311 yards a week, which ranks sixth nationally and trails only the Badgers (349.8) in the conference.

The passing game has been developing well with Devin Smith and Philly Brown the top options. Evan Spencer has also drawn the praise of the coaching staff for his play.

The Badgers have been stout on defense and own two shutouts. They blanked UMass and Tennessee Tech, 45 and 48-0, respectively. They allow just over 10 points a game.

Leading the way for the unit is Ohio native Chris Borland, who has 30 tackles on the season. In terms of scoring, Wisconsin ranks 10th nationally and it's ranked sixth in total defense, allowing just 243 yards a game.

"It's a much different defense that Wisconsin uses," Meyer said. "They use multiple looks and they're very active. They have tough players, who are very sound from a technique standpoint."

The Badgers' offense hasn't missed a beat in the ground game despite Montee Ball having graduated and now playing for the Denver Broncos.

Actually, Wisconsin has just plugged more backs into its offense. James White is the veteran in the backfield, who is the nation's active career leader in rushing yards (3,013) and rushing touchdowns (35).

The newcomer to the mix is also having a big season. Sophomore Melvin Gordon shared the Big Ten Player of the Week honor with Guiton after running for 147 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Boilermakers.

"They have great backs," Meyer said. "Not sure where they keep getting these guys, but they're really good. Wisconsin is the king of the Big Ten right now and we're looking forward to the opportunity to compete with team that's been in the Rose Bowl the last few years."

Gordon is the leading rusher in America with 156 yards a game. White ranks 23rd at 110.5 a week. They're the only teammates ranked in the top 25 nationally.

Sophomore Joel tave is the Badgers' quarterback. He's thrown for 761 yards and six touchdowns. His top target has been senior Jared Abbrederis with 23 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns.

The Buckeyes' defense has been steady with junior linebacker Ryan Shazier leading the way with 28 tackles.

The secondary has been really solid with Bradley Roby back in the mix along with Christian Bryant, Doran Grant and C.J. Barnett.

Linebacker Curtis Grant has played well. He's a guy who Meyer pointed out several times that OSU would need to be successful on defense.

The OSU defense is expecting to get defensive tackle Adolphus Washington back and Michael Bennett will play as well after missing last week's game.

 
 
 

 

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