2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 9 - Wisconsin at Ohio State
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Oct. 29 at Ohio State 33 … Wisconsin 29
CFN Analysis: Be careful, Ohio State; there’s still lots and lots of work to do. Even after this big win, there’s still no margin for error, needing to win out to likely win the Leaders, but for now, this was a breakthrough moment when Braxton Miller looked like a playmaker to get truly excited about – the Badgers couldn’t tackle him – while the return of Dan Herron at home made all the difference for an offense that needs more playmakers. The lines beat up the Badgers with John Simon getting his mail sent to the UW backfield, but for all the great things OSU did and for all the positives, it took an epic play by Miller to pull the win out of the fire after the D broke down. Now the division is there for the taking. Win out, hope for a Penn State loss to Wisconsin or Nebraska, and the Leaders title can be a phenomenal reward after such a tough year.
Wisconsin, keep your head up; you can still win the Big Ten title. Win out, hope for an Ohio State loss, and hope for a Penn State loss to OSU or Nebraska, and the Rose Bowl is still on the table. However, the team has to get back to being more physical after getting whipped by the Buckeye lines. The defense couldn’t tackle Braxton Miller or Dan Herron – but Mike Taylor tried, with 22 tackles – and the offense sputtered and coughed too much in the middle of the game. Getting a punt blocked for a second straight week was inexcusable, and giving up a big play deep to a wide open Devin Smith is unforgiveable. With Purdue and Minnesota up next, there’s time to right the ship before going to Illinois and Penn State, and to get back on track the O line has to start playing like the Wisconsin O line again.
(AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After almost a year of suspensions, rumors and NCAA trouble in the headlines, Ohio State finally made some news on the field.
Braxton Miller threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left and the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin (No. 15 BCS, No. 12 AP) 33-29 on Saturday night, handing the Badgers their second consecutive stunning defeat.
It was seven days earlier that Wisconsin was beaten 37-31 at Michigan State on a desperation pass on the final play of the game. The latest heartbreak, just like the one that ended the Badgers' run at an undefeated season, wasn't confirmed until a video review.
"The replay booth has definitely not been our friend the last two weeks," frustrated Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.
The Buckeyes (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) earned their biggest win yet in a season shadowed by NCAA problems.
"This is what Ohio State's about," interim coach Luke Fickell said. "We don't ever look at ourselves as underdogs. This is a huge win, a signature win. This is for this team, this is for this program. This is what we expect."
The Badgers (7-2, 3-2) drove to the Ohio State 45 -- and got an extra play after time elapsed due to a defensive facemask call -- but linebacker Andrew Sweat hit quarterback Russell Wilson as he was throwing to end the game and touch off a wild celebration.
It was an incredible finish, with four touchdowns scored in the final 4:39. But the Buckeyes were the last team standing after a series of knockdown punches by both sides.
Miller, a freshman, ran for 99 yards on 19 carries and scored twice, in addition to completing 7 of 12 passes for 89 yards and a score.
Fickell said that before Miller went onto the field for the last possession, the quarterback turned to the coach and winked.
"I felt good about it. That's what you need," Fickell said. "You've got to have confidence in what you're doing. You have to have belief in what you're doing."
Dan Herron, in his second game back from two separate suspensions for accepting improper benefits, rushed for 160 yards on 33 carries.
"It was a great feeling," Herron said. "We definitely wanted this win very bad. The team kept on fighting and guys never gave up and we went out there and got it done."
Miller scored on runs of 1 and 44 yards -- the latter putting Ohio State up 26-14 with 4:39 left. Herron rumbled 57 yards on the first play of the second half to set up Miller's first TD.
The Badgers came in averaging 47.4 points and 512 yards, but were stymied most of the night. They also said all week that they had put the painful loss in East Lansing, Mich., in the rearview mirror. But adding in this latest loss, they may have recurring nightmares.
"(This is) real tough," Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Toon said. "We've handed them the game two weeks in a row at the end of the game. You can't do that."
Wilson completed 20 of 32 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns and Montee Ball gained 85 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown. Jared Abbrederis had six catches for 113 yards and two scores.
Taking the kickoff to start the second half, Ohio State immediately got a big play.
Herron burst through a hole at the line and past defenders pinching the line, racing 57 yards to the Wisconsin 18. He later went 18 yards to the 1, setting up Miller's first TD run.
After the kickoff, the Badgers had to punt. For the second week in a row, things didn't go as planned.
A week after Wisconsin had a blocked punt lead to points in the backbreaking loss at Michigan State, Ohio State's Ryan Shazier came in completely untouched to block Brad Nortman's punt. The ball was downed at the Wisconsin 1 by Curtis Grant and the Buckeyes were right back near paydirt.
On Jordan Hall's third run from the 1, he stuck his nose in the back of blocking fullback Zach Boren and slid into the end zone, putting the Buckeyes up 17-7.
The celebration was short-lived. The Buckeyes forced a punt but Hall promptly fumbled it, with Andrew Lukasko recovering at the Ohio State 27, leading to Ball notching his 21st touchdown of the season through a wide hole on the left side.
After Drew Basil converted a 22-yard field goal to push the lead to six points, a Wisconsin drive ended at the Ohio State 38 on fourth-and-2 when Sweat knifed through to bring down Ball a yard short.
Six plays later, Miller kept the ball on third-and-2 and raced through a big hole at left tackle, going 44 yards untouched for the score with 4:39 remaining.
The Badgers answered with a quick score in just 44 seconds, with Wilson hitting Abbrederis on a 17-yard score to cut it to 26-21 with 3:48 left.
Wisconsin kicked deep and then held the Buckeyes on three runs, forcing a punt.
It took just four plays to cover the 68 yards, with Wilson finding Abbrederis all alone down the left sideline for a 49-yard score with 1:18 left. A 2-point conversion pass from Wilson to Ball made it 29-26.
"Unfortunately, we scored too fast," Bielema said.
But the Buckeyes came right back, taking over at their own 48 after a 42-yard kickoff return by Hall.
They picked up 12 yards on three plays before Miller took the snap on first down at the Wisconsin 40 with 30 seconds left. He floated right to avoid a rush, barely sidestepped a potential tackle and suddenly noticed Smith wide open in the end zone. Miller stopped and looped the ball to Smith who caught it just before two defenders closed on him.
The crowd of 105,511 went wild.
After Basil's extra point, the Buckeyes kicked off -- out of bounds. That gave Wisconsin the ball at its own 40 with 18 seconds left.
Wilson threw three incompletions -- twice off the hands of receivers who could easily have made huge plays.
As a mob of fans waited to rush the field, it was announced there was a flag on the final play of regulation. It was for a facemask against safety Christian Bryant.
That gave the Badgers the ball at the Ohio State 45 and one final play.
But the pocket closed on Wilson and Sweat hit him from behind just as he was releasing the pass, the ball fluttering to the ground while the field filled with running, jumping fans celebrating Ohio State's 90th homecoming.
"We knew it was going to be a fight," lineman John Simon said. "This is a big win for us. We're going to enjoy it tonight and get back to work tomorrow. There's a lot of football left."
The Badgers are hoping for brighter days.
"Obviously, it's another heartbreaking loss," Bielema said.
Wisconsin (6-1) at Ohio State (4-3) Oct. 29, 8:00, ESPN/ESPN3
Here’s The Deal … Now we get to see how good Wisconsin really is.
Can Michigan State beat the Badgers twice? Wisconsin is better than Ohio State – and it’s better than Michigan State, too – but after as heart-ripping a loss as any team has ever experienced, and with the national title dream all but gone, now it’s time to focus on a more important game. The national title is the national title, but winning the Big Ten is Step Two, and winning the Leaders is Step One. Losing to the Spartans might have hurt, but that was an interdivisional game. Losing to Ohio State would be disastrous because then the season really might be over.
For the Buckeyes, it’s revenge time for its only loss of last year, and more importantly, it’s a chance to make a huge statement that they’re front and center in the race for the Rose Bowl after beating Illinois in one of the strangest game in Big Ten history.
OSU has had two weeks off to rest up and prepare for the Badgers, but will that mean anything to a passing game that completed one pass in the win over the Illini? Has the coaching staff been able to come up with a few new wrinkles for the nation’s 110th ranked offense, and is the confidence level back with painful losses to Michigan State and Nebraska still fresh? All the talk around Wisconsin is about a rematch in the Big Ten title game against the Spartans, but if OSU can pull off the win this week, it’ll be able to start thinking about possibly getting a second shot in Indianapolis.
There’s still work to do for both teams, but the season will probably be defined for the loser. The Badgers have two relative layups against Purdue and Minnesota to follow, before finishing up with a road trip to Illinois and a possible division title-deciding day against Penn State, while the Buckeyes get Indiana and Purdue before closing out with the Nittany Lions and a trip to Michigan.
Ohio State has won three of the last four in the series with Wisconsin’s last win in Columbus coming in 2004.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: Certain teams are great matchups for Wisconsin’s style of play. Michigan State wasn’t one of them. Nebraska was one, and oddly enough, LSU and Alabama are better matchups for the Badgers than Oklahoma or any of the high-powered Big 12 teams.
As proven last week, the one thing the Badgers are going to have problems with is a smart, veteran quarterback who can connect on third down passes and can push the ball down the field once in a while. Kirk Cousins might not be Andrew Luck, but he’s an NFL prospect who played like it, not including the desperation heave. Wisconsin’s defense might not be special, but it’s physical and wants to match up with teams heavy on the running game like Nebraska, and like Ohio State.
Against Illinois, Braxton Miller completed 1-of-4 passes for 17 yards and a score, while only running up 211 yards on the ground. That’s not going to get it done against a Badger team that’s far tougher up front on both sides of the ball and far more balanced when it has to be.
From all indications, there’s no sulking this week. Apparently, there’s more of a “let’s get back on the field NOW” attitude rather than a “man, the national title is gone” sort of moping. That there wasn’t any whining about the final play speaks volumes; this is a smart, veteran team with a head coach who’s great at compartmentalizing quarters, much less games.
Why Ohio State Might Win: In 2009. Ohio State came into the game with a reputation for being a bit soft – by its own high standards – on the defensive front. It rallied with a nasty attitude and a great defensive performance on the way to a dominant win over the Badgers (despite a strangely lopsided time of possession in UW’s favor). This year’s OSU team isn’t being dogged at the moment after getting the Nebraska taste out of its mouth with the win over Illinois, but the defensive front has the talent and the ability to turn it up a few more notches.
Wisconsin showed the ability to implode last week, and considering the Buckeyes have been terrific in turnover margin, Bucky might not have its normal advantage. The team worked this week on correcting the disastrous special teams mistakes made in East Lansing, but now its facing an even better return game and a stronger overall special teams unit. Ohio State has been terrific in the return game and has been punting well. In a game where field position will be at a premium, the Buckeyes have to keep things tilted towards Wisconsin’s side of the field.
What To Watch Out For: Welcome back, Dan Herron. Done with his suspension, the star of the Buckeye running game bailed out the awful offense with 114 yards and a score on 23 carries against Illinois. The Buckeye offensive line hasn’t done much in pass protection, but it’s been fine for the ground game, and now it needs to own the time of possession and control the clock with a fresh-legged Herrron leading the way. While Braxton Miller will be asked to push the ball down the field a wee bit more to try to open things up, the attack will revolve around Herron, who was one of the few bright spots in last year’s loss in Madison.
It was a rough day for Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis. The nation’s leading punt returner has some of the surest hands in the Big Ten, but he dropped a key bomb that would’ve bailed the Badgers out of trouble in the second half. Through no real fault of his own, he’ll forever be remembers for his inability to control the play on the Hail Mary that ended up in Keith Nichol’s hands. However, he’s been great at making up for his mistakes, coming up with a big punt return following the drop, and he’s expected to be used more and more in a variety of was in the offense. Nick Toon is the star of the UW receiving corps, but Abbrederis could be the big playmaker after being shut out in last year’s win over OSU.
What Will Happen: Wisconsin will play like the Michigan State game never happened. Braxton Miller will throw three interceptions, the Badger running game will take control early, and the Buckeyes will have to try to mount a comeback. It won’t be pretty, and there won’t be any hangover whatsoever.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 31 … Ohio State 13
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Wisconsin -7.5 O/U: 50.5
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