What's next for Ohio State football? An early glance at Big Ten opener against Wisconsin

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

A bit has changed since Ohio State last met Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game in 2019.

The Badgers have slipped in the West. After winning the division three times in four seasons, they have finished in second and third in the previous seasons..

But Paul Chryst’s team presents a physical test for opponents between Braelon Allen, a bruising running back, and a stiff defense.

Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) run 36-yards for a touchdown during the first quarter of their game against New Mexico State Saturday, September 17, 2022 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.



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College football Week 4: Ohio State (3-0) vs. Wisconsin (2-1)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC, 97.1 FM/1460 AM

Poll position

Wisconsin had been No. 18 in the preseason Associated Press poll before falling outside the top-25 after an upset loss to Washington State in its second game. That makes this the first matchup between the teams since 2012 when both of them are not ranked. The Buckeyes remain No. 3 this week.

Point spread

Ohio State opened as a 17.5-point favorite after being favored by four touchdowns or more in its last two non-conference games.

Wisconsin’s last game

The Badgers rebounded from a loss with a 66-9 rout of New Mexico State, their most lopsided win since a 61-0 shutout of Central Michigan in 2019. But the Aggies are winless and especially woeful. ESPN’s FPI rankings have them last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Wisconsin’s strength

Since Jim Leonhard was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2016, the Badgers have ranked in the top-10 in total defense in all but one season and were atop the FBS last season. They’re tough on that side of the ball.

Wisconsin’s weakness

The Badgers have had issues with penalties like Ohio State. When they stumbled against Washington State, they were flagged 11 times for 106 yards. The second-most in a game since Chryst took over in 2015.

Wisconsin’s player to watch

When Allen rushed for 1,268 yards last fall, he become the fourth running back in program history to surpass 1,000 yards as a freshman. The others were Ron Dayne, Jonathan Taylor and James White. That’s pretty good company. Allen is tough to bring down.

Wisconsin’s X-factor

Is quarterback Graham Mertz improved? The early signs point to progress. After throwing more interceptions than touchdowns a year ago, he’s been much more efficient to start this season. Through three games, his 190.88 passer rating ranks fifth in the FBS and second in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State’ C.J. Stroud.

Ohio State-Wisconsin series history

The Buckeyes have won 11 of the last 12 games against the Badgers since a loss in 2004.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

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