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Ohio State defeats Wisconsin for these five reasons. Tonight on Saturday

 

The stakes from here on out just continue to climb for the Ohio State football team. A win over Penn State last Saturday kept the astronomical goals and trajectory on track, but things don’t end there. After avoiding boulders against the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes now have to travel to Wisconsin for what should be a physical rock fight.

When we looked down the schedule at the beginning of the year, this game was circled as one of the toughest tests. After all, it’s never a walk in the park along the daisies to hit the road and play in Camp Randall at night.

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But, since Luke Fickell took over as head coach, Wisconsin has not been the formidable opponent in the West division as everyone had assumed. The season is only halfway through, and the Badgers have already dropped two games (one at home against an Iowa squad with less offensive capability than a third-world military) and lost starting quarterback Tanner Mordecai to injury a few weeks ago.

Still, the Wisconsin program is a proud one that still has plenty to play for, including a West division crown and spot in Indy. It would love nothing more than to knock off a top-five opponent in front of the home fans.

But we like Ohio State in this one for several reasons. Here are five things we think lead the Buckeyes to a victory on Saturday night among the cheese and beer up in Wisconsin.

We have “the dude” at Ohio State.

Why it matters

Undoubtedly, a football program’s culture and schematics play a significant role, but ultimately, the players on the field win or lose games. And when it comes to players this year in college football, there aren’t too many better than Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

Sometimes a team just has the dude that can put a team on his back and get a big play when needed, and that’s the case with Harrison Jr. When the chips are down, he is the guy who can call the other team’s bluff and take precedence over everything else going on. He was the offensive difference for OSU against Penn State last week.

Harrison has the ability to break loose when things in Mad-town get a little rough and make the big catches when they are needed.

Defense travels

Ohio State vs. Penn State: Five things we think we learned in victory

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Why it matters

Offense is great, and that’s kind of been the culture under Ryan Day, but the thing that can suck the life out of a home crowd is a defense that throttles the opposing team’s ability to make plays on offense. As demonstrated by their road victories over Notre Dame earlier in the season and their performance against a potent Penn State offense last week, Ohio State has that this year.

Those same defenders will get off the bus at Camp Randall, suit up, and play as strong and aggressively as they have all season. Defense travels, and it covers up a lot of issues you can have on the road.

Many happy returns

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Why it matters

Ohio State’s running game hasn’t been quite as effective as what you’d want it to be, but when you have your best home run threat out with injury, that tends to happen. TreVeyon Henderson has been sidelined for three weeks, citing a “precaution,” for reasons that are still unclear to us, but it seems that he has been given the all-clear this week.

Look for the running game to compliment the passing game with Kyle McCord and Harrison much more this game and create more chances and bigger plays on the offensive end. Ohio State should get more than 20 points in this one and put pressure on Wisconsin to score enough points to keep up.

Additionally, based on statements made by Day earlier in the week, there is a strong possibility that defensive back Denzel Burke and receiver Emeka Egbuka return to the starting lineup. That would give the Buckeyes an even greater personnel advantage in this game.

Wisconsin’s quarterback issue

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Why it matters

Wisconsin’s quarterback play has never been particularly impressive over the years, and it has not been thus far this season either. Even against a team that will pass the ball a lot, it is still the most crucial position on the field as the leader and offensive maestro.

Freshman Braedyn Locke has been thrust into the starting lineup with the injury to former starter Tanner Mordecai, and he’s about to face an Ohio State front that’s bigger, stronger, and faster than what he’s faced in his lifetime. Arranging a victory over Illinois is one thing; facing an OSU defense of this caliber is quite another.

If Wisconsin gets down early, Locke is going to have to drop and pass the ball more than the Badger coaching staff would like, and that’s going to spell big problems.

Talent gap

Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Why it matters

Above all, these are not the Wisconsin teams of the past—teams with strong defenses, talented players all over the offensive line, and enough running backs to wear you down. That has not been the case in a few years, which is why Paul Chryst was fired in the middle of the 2017 season.

Luke Fickell has shown his ability to build a roster, but it’s just not there yet. The talent gap was evident last season when Ohio State administered a public college football flogging to the Badgers, 52-21, and there’s still a wide chasm that will have to be closed with recruiting classes and development in future years.

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