ESPN.com college football writer Pat Forde is on record in calling for a tight UW victory. I’m going to join him. Here’s why:
1. Night Football: As a former season ticket holder during the height of UW football greatness, I had several opportunities to see night games here. Scott Van Pelt once commented that Madison is the best college sports town in America…he hasn’t seen a UW night football game. They have been rare, but when they happen…look out. I remember the game in 1996, when tOSU blocked the field goal late, Lorenzo Styles had 21 tackles, Donny Brady was horrendous, the game was a loss, but the atmosphere was electric. I expect that to continue Saturday. Those types of atmospheres are rare and must be taken into account.
2. There is little reason to pick Wisconsin over Ohio State, which looks like the nation’s best team. One reason has to be the fact that the Wisconsin offense unlike any that tOSU has dismantled can actually run and throw. They are a run team first and foremost coming at #11 in the nation. They have fine running backs, a huge OL, and a crafty playcaller. But unlike the doormats that tOSU has pounded in conference, both Illinois and Indiana are awful and are either one dimensional as in the case of Indiana or none dimensional as in the case of Zook is to be fired in December Illinois. White and Clay are the types of backs that can beat an OSU, they have diversity on this side of the ball, great TE play, and solid QB play. The play of Nick Toon must improve, I will call him out right now. He’s been poor, to put it kindly.
3. Bret Bielema: what? Bret as a reason for victory? Yep, he’s had one victory in many chances against a top 25 opponent…it has to happen sooner or later. Saturday is later.
Not a real convincing case for victory, but consider that UW has traditionally defended tOSU well. They physically whupped the Buckeyes last year in Columbus only to fall short as a result of a pair of pick sixes by Tolzein. Those were devastating. That game should have been a Buckeye loss. This team offensively seems to be better suited to finish. Defensively, there are worries all over the field. Wisconsin on defense can be solid for 15-20 plays in a row and then lay an egg for an entire series, I hope they can be more consistent Saturday. UW’s run defense has been solid over the first 6 games, they need to be more consistent in coverage and generate some pressure versus Pryor in order to have success. It is this side of the ball I’m worried about. Not to mention that the UW special teams have been butt bad at times, horrendous in all non-kicking related areas. OSU traditionally is outstanding in this area, UW will need to match them in order to be successful.
Prediction: Clay and White both break the seal. OSU has gone 11 games without allowing a 100 yard rusher. Saturday they give up 2. Wisconsin can overpower the OSU DL and this will be the key factor in the game as UW keeps Pryor off the field with ball control. A Goose Island IPA would go great with this victory, that prediction is assured!
UW: 24 tOSU: 20