Columbus, OH - Stifling run defenses have been a staple at Ohio State over the past few years, but recently the current one has been especially impressive.
The ninth-ranked Buckeyes hope to continue their success in stopping the run on Saturday when they play host to John Clay and Wisconsin while looking to hand their Big Ten rival their first loss.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Ohio State -16 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Wisconsin +16 (View College Football bet percentages).
After losing by three points to then-No. 3 Southern California last month, Ohio State (4-1, 2-0) reeled off consecutive shutouts over Toledo and Illinois before beating Indiana 33-14 last Saturday.
The Buckeyes held the Hoosiers scoreless until giving up a touchdown early in the second quarter. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw three touchdowns and rushed for another, but he also tossed his fifth interception - surpassing last year's total.
Ohio State gave up 18 yards rushing to Indiana and has held opponents to 37.7 yards on the ground in the last three games - the third-best average in the Football Bowl Subdivision over that span.
"We've tried to take pride in getting 11 guys to the ball all the time," lineman Todd Denlinger said. "That way if one guy misses a tackle you have nine, 10 guys behind you to clean it up. ... We're trying to get better at it."
The Buckeyes' run defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard individual rushing performance since Southern California's Joe McKnight on Sept. 13, 2008, and have allowed only seven 100-yard rushers since the beginning of the 2005 season.
After putting up big defensive displays in its last three games, Ohio State is expecting a bigger challenge against Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0), which ranks 14th in the FBS with an average of 217.2 rushing yards. Much of the Buckeyes' attention will be focused on Clay, who ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns in Wisconsin's 31-28 win at Minnesota last Saturday.
Clay, named the Big Ten offensive player of the week Monday, leads the league with 116.4 yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns.
"Wisconsin can run it and they've demonstrated that. We've demonstrated that we can play he run, so now what a great challenge," coach Jim Tressel said.
Adding to that challenge is that Ohio State will be without defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, who left against Indiana with a sprained right knee and will miss this game. Larimore has 17 tackles this season.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien passed for 884 yards and eight touchdowns in Wisconsin's first four wins, but the Badgers are hoping to continue to get more out of the 247-pound Clay, who had been held to fewer than 75 yards rushing in two of the first four contests.
"My size helps a lot," said Clay, a native of Racine, Wis. "I can absorb most of the pounding and deliver at the same time. Being this big and being able to run that hard really helps me out."
The Badgers are seeking their first 6-0 start since 2004 when they won their first nine.
Four of Wisconsin's wins this year have been by eight points or fewer, which may be why it's unable to break into the top 25. Coach Bret Bielema said national recognition is of little interest to the players.
"I think our team is a team that likes to gain respect rather than lose respect," he said. "And because of that, they really don't care what comes their way."
Ohio State leads the all-time series against Wisconsin 52-17-5. Pryor rushed for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:08 left in Ohio State's 20-17 win over Wisconsin last season - the Buckeyes' second straight win over the Badgers.
Clay led Wisconsin with 69 yards on 10 carries.
Posted: 10/7/09 12:48PM ET