OSU on the run
Rushing games to play big part in tonight’s Badgers-Buckeyes game
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt would like a unique birthday gift this year.
A win over Ohio State might be more cherished than any present.
The second-ranked Buckeyes will visit Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday night in a Big Ten showdown, when the eighth-ranked Badgers hope they can make Watt’s weekend extra special.
“A Big Ten game in prime time, I know they’re going to be juiced up,” Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said.
Just like on Oct. 16, 2010 , when Wisconsin handed then-No. 1 Ohio State its first loss of the season, 31-18. It was Watt’s birthday weekend, and he was sitting in the stands as a spectator watching older brother J.J. Watt get two sacks for the Badgers.
“A lot of people say it was the loudest they have ever heard the stadium,” T.J. Watt said.
Watt is following in the pass-rushing footsteps of his older brother and Houston Texans star, though he hasn’t needed much advice.
“Just kind of lets me do my own thing right now,” the younger Watt said.
Whatever he’s doing is working since Watt has 5 1/2 sacks in Wisconsin’s five games.
The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0) will be the biggest test yet for the defensive-minded Badgers (4-1, 1-1).
Ohio State is ranked fifth in total offense (537.6 yards per game) and third in scoring offense (53.2 points). The Buckeyes run for 323.6 yards per game, third-best in the country .
Wisconsin is allowing just 90.4 yards per game, the sixth-best run defense in the nation.
This could be an old-fashioned Big Ten brawl in the trenches.
“It’ll come down to whether or not we can run the ball, protect, and if we can stop their run game,” Ohio State offensive lineman Pat Elflein said. “Those are always fun games to play in.”
Some notes and other things to watch on Saturday night:
BUCKEYES PASS: Ohio State hopes to get its passing game going again after it sputtered in last week’s 38-17 win over Indiana. Barrett was just 9 of 21 for 93 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. Coach Urban Meyer cited communication, in part, as an issue. Barrett was focused this week on getting all 11 players on the offense in sync for every play.
TUCK AND RUN: If he gets into trouble though, Barrett can tuck the ball away and run. He had 137 yards and a score on a career-high 26 carries, which might be too many for the team’s best player. But Barrett is a unique run-pass threat who should cause fits for the Badgers.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst likened Barrett’s importance to the Buckeyes to that of a point guard on a basketball team. “Everything goes through him, and he’s got poise,” Chryst said.
ON THE LINEBACKERS: Wisconsin will be without top outside linebacker Vince Biegel again because of a foot injury. But replacement Garrett Dooley played well in his place, opposite Watt, in Wisconsin’s 14-7 loss to Michigan two weeks ago. Inside linebackers Jack Cichy and T.J. Edwards are also playing well, and the defensive line has shown that it can control the line of scrimmage. The Badgers remain strong defensively even at less than full strength.
CLEMENT TIME?: Senior running back Corey Clement is Wisconsin’s best breakaway threat, though he’s waiting for his breakout game this year. Clement did have 111 yards on 21 carries against Akron before getting hurt. He’s averaging 3.9 yards a carry, 2 yards less than his career average. To have a chance at an upset, the Badgers will need to play ball-control, as well as get big plays out of Clement and the running game to take pressure off freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook.
NIGHT OUT: Barrett thinks the Wisconsin tradition of playing the song “Jump Around” between the third and fourth quarters is “pretty cool.” Wait until he sees it in person. A juiced-up student section leads the celebration, when fans in the creaky stadium sway to the hip-hop anthem. Ohio State is used to playing in hostile road environments, though Camp Randall at night should be a unique experience.
“It’s going to be loud,” Meyer said. “It’s going to be really loud.”