Wisconsin v. Ohio St.
I distinctly remember watching two of the great OSU-UW games in recent history.
The first was in Mazamonie (hometown of Mike Wilkinson). I recall watching OSU jump out to a 17-0 lead, only to see the Badgers roar back behind Ron Dayne and pummel the Buckeyes at the shoe with 42 unanswered points.
The second was as a spectator at the Camp in 1993. I recall a fiercely contested game that a blown coverage by Donny Brady led to a late OSU touchdown. I recall about 92 tackles by Alonzo Styles. I recall a block by an OSU DB named Marlon Kerner of a late UW FG to seal a tie. In the wake of the infamous Michigan trampling game, this was a huge game. UW went on to win the Rose Bowl over UCLA that year. That remains the greatest game I ever saw live.
In short, OSU and Wisconsin is a special rivalry. We all get annoyed by the “The Ohio State” nonsense. We get annoyed by their BCS shortcomings. But the bottom line is this is a hardnosed defensive orientated football program with whom Wisconsin has had epic battles. I expect Saturday to be no different.
My five keys to this game:
1. UW has been tremendous in having offensive balance in 2009. This must continue on Saturday. I feel like Paul Chryst will invert his offensive approach by opening throwing to set up the run. If Scott Tolzein is successful in doing this, UW has a chance to be very successful. Scott can expect the best front seven and an aggressive athletic defensive backfield awaiting him.
2. Tight Ends: It is no secret that UW has arguably the best program for developing and using this position in the conference. They are masterful at isolating their skilled TE’s in advantageous positions. UW will see that this OSU backfield is much better than any than they have seen. Should Kendricks, Graham, and Turner find success on third downs, UW has a chance to stick around all afternoon.
3. Clay: despite the strange insistence on not starting him (Zach Brown is starting despite his fumble woes), John Clay is a unique player OSU has acknowledged concern about. Reading Jim Tressel talk about John Clay, you’d think it were 2000 and he were talking about Ron Dayne, a developing force as a big back. Clay has a unique ability to drag tacklers, he has embraced his role as a punishing back rather than trying to run away from defenders. Should he be able to find seams against this OSU defense as a result of Tolzein’s efforts, UW can win this game. OSU’s defense has been stout as they have allowed only 1 100 yard rusher all year; Joe McKnight of USC.
4. Bielema: Bret has grown up this year. He seems to be relying more on gifted coaches. There have been almost no gaffes on his part. He seems in control. The staff has seemingly built a team that is better than its individual parts (see secondary!). If Bret can harness these learned lessons Saturday, UW will be the better for it.
5. Pryor experience: the kid is a stud. UW fared very well last year until the last 5 minutes. If they can capitalize on that experience and keep him in the pocket where his throwing has not been as proficient, UW will win. His targets and run game from last year are gone, the offense at OSU is evolving. If he is able to create and run freely using his impressive improvisational and athletic abilities UW will lose. This is obviously a big if.
How I see it?
UW will play valiantly. I unfortunately feel that Tolzein as good as he has been will make an error or two. The UW secondary which has been a revolving door, will emerge vulnerable to OSU’s developing receivers. The special teams at OSU, always a strength will once again contribute to the Buckeyes contolling field position. UW’s shortcomings in the return game and coverage game will be an achilles heel.
OSU 24 UW 20
UW wins respect on a national scale for battling this talented team, but in the end falls short.