Big 10 Battle
Ohio State hasn't been to Madison in nearly five years, but a nationally televised road game at night in front a sea of hostile fans clad in red shouldn't be anything new to the Buckeyes. They're just hoping for a much different result.
Looking to put its mid-September loss at Southern California in the rear view mirror, 14th-ranked Ohio State returns to the road Saturday night against No. 18 Wisconsin, which is also looking to erase the bitter memory of a road defeat.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Ohio St –1.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Ohio St –1.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
The Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) expected to contend for the national championship behind a veteran defensive unit and a balanced offense, but their first major test of the season - like many of their high-profile non-conference games in recent years - was a major disappointment. Ohio State was blown out 35-3 in Los Angeles against the then-top ranked Trojans on Sept. 13, severely damaging its hopes for a third consecutive trip to the BCS championship game in January.
The Badgers (3-1, 0-1) had similar goals, especially after their non-conference trip to California went far better than Ohio State's. Wisconsin beat then-No. 21 Fresno State 13-10 the same night the Buckeyes were trounced by USC, but their Big Ten road opener last Saturday ended in devastating fashion.
After the Badgers forced five turnovers while racing to a 19-0 halftime lead in Ann Arbor, they fell apart in the second half, giving up four touchdowns in just over 12 minutes and losing 27-25 to Michigan.
"All losses are deflating and when you have high expectations and lofty goals, those things are always going to have a hard-hitting effect on your program," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "The one thing I want (my players) to understand is that they're a good football team that didn't play well enough today to overcome several blown opportunities."
Ohio State responded to its loss by making a major personnel change. The Buckeyes split snaps between senior quarterback Todd Boeckman and highly touted freshman Terrelle Pryor at USC, but the more mobile Pryor has since taken over the starting role.
He's looked poised in his first two games running the offense, throwing for four touchdowns in a 28-10 win over Troy on Sept. 20, then throwing one and running for 97 yards and two more scores last Saturday in a 34-21 victory over Minnesota.
Against the Gophers, Pryor was aided by the return of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, who had missed three games with a foot injury. Wells gained 106 yards on 14 carries, giving the Buckeyes a pair of gifted runners to challenge opposing defenses.
"We can provide a spark for the offense,'' Wells said. "It's great to have a quarterback like that. Our backfield creates a lot of space for offensive success."
Wells was the difference maker last season when Wisconsin played in Columbus. He ran 21 times for 169 yards and scored three second-half touchdowns, rallying top-ranked Ohio State from a seven-point deficit to a 38-17 victory.
Wells hasn't visited Camp Randall Stadium during his three years as a Buckeye, and none of his teammates have either. Ohio State hasn't paid a visit to Madison since a night game on Oct. 11, 2003, a 17-10 loss for the then-No. 3 Buckeyes that snapped their 19-game winning streak.
"This will be really our first big, big test since USC and it's going to be a hostile environment and it's going to be an environment that none of us have ever been in," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "We'll see how we handle it and see how well we play under that pressure."
There may be even more pressure on a Badgers team looking to avoid its first 0-2 conference start since 2002. Wisconsin began Big Ten play 0-3 that season on its way to a 2-6 conference finish.
With No. 6 Penn State visiting Madison next week, the Badgers know they have to move on from the Michigan loss or risk falling out of the Big Ten title hunt altogether.
"We can't let this loss lead to another," linebacker DeAndre Levy said. "We have to forget this game and move onto the next one just like we do every week."
Wisconsin will likely need a better performance from quarterback Allan Evridge to beat the Buckeyes. The senior threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles against the Wolverines, and now will face an Ohio State unit that ranks 12th in the country in total defense (251.8 yards per game).
The Badgers have won 27 of their last 28 games at Camp Randall, including 16 straight since a loss to Iowa on Nov. 12, 2005.
[RB] Beanie Wells is upgraded to probable - Foot - 09/18/08
[OG] Steve Rehring out indefinitely - Foot - 09/17/08
[DB] Tyler Moeller missed last game ? - Leg - 09/20/08
[RB] John Clay upgraded to probable. - Back - 09/23/08
[DL] Jason Chapman upgraded to probable. - Thumb - 09/24/08
[DE] Kirk DeCremer out for the season - Back - 08/31/08
[LB] Jaevery McFadden upgraded to probable. - Hand - 09/24/08
[CB] Aaron Henry missed last game, downgraded to expected to miss. - Knee
Top Trends for this game.
WISCONSIN is 54-35 ATS (+15.5 Units) in home games when playing on a Saturday since 1992.
Head-to-Head Series History
OHIO ST is 1-0 against the spread versus WISCONSIN over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 1-0 straight up against WISCONSIN over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Did you like this article? Subscribe to our College Football news feed for the fastest updates delivered right to you - Click here to Subscribe