Week 11 - Ohio State at Wisconsin
Wisconsin RB James White
Wisconsin RB James White
Posted Nov 14, 2012

Week 12 Fearless Prediction - Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Ohio State (10-0) at Wisconsin (7-3) Nov. 17, 3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Here's The Deal: While the game doesn't mean anything in terms of the Big Ten title chase, it means everything in terms of respect and perception for the rest of the conference season.

Wisconsin is off to the Big Ten championship after obliterating Indiana to earn the Leaders' spot in the title game, but the next two weeks will show whether or not the team really is the division's best team. Even if Ohio State finishes higher in the standings, if the Badgers win this week, it could be just enough to give them credibility that they really do belong in Indianapolis. A loss, and there will be an emptiness about the title game – everyone will know that the Big Ten's best team isn't in Indianapolis.

But that's the break. Ohio State and Penn State are being punished, and Wisconsin isn't going to apologize if it ends up going back to Pasadena for a third straight year. Would the team be preparing differently if this game really did matter in the race? Is it silly to think that the focus would be different? Even though the fates are already sealed, don't think for a second that Wisconsin doesn't really, really want to prove it's the star of the Leaders.

And don't think that the team doesn't want a little bit of revenge after losing to the Buckeyes in heartbreaking fashion on a late Braxton Miller bomb.

It's a bittersweet season for an Ohio State team that has two games left before it has to sit back and watch everyone else have fun. If the Buckeyes go 12-0, the fans will be ecstatic, there will be plenty of column inches wondering what might have happened if the team was eligible, and the excitement will be through the roof for 2013.

And it will be frustrating.

Even so, this battle with Bucky and the Michigan showdown to close out the year will be the equivalent of the team's bowl. As great as the first ten games have been, the last two will define the season.

Why Ohio State Might Win: Playtime is over for the Badgers. Yeah, they're going to the Big Ten championship, and yeah, their three losses came by three points each and could've all gone either way, but they only played three really strong teams – Oregon State, Nebraska and Michigan State – and lost all three games. The record has been built up by beating Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, UTEP and other dregs; now it's time to face a strong, active run defense.

The Badger line isn't going to shove around Johnathan Hankins and John Simon up front like it did to Indiana, and there aren't going to be the big holes to fly through. Against the Hoosiers and Boilermakers and Gophers, Montee Ball and the other backs were able to get to the second level in a hurry and come up with big gains after big gains, but the Buckeyes, while they're not going to get into the backfield, will do a great job of plugging the holes. Wisconsin needs time to let the holes develop, and that's not going to happen.

Why Wisconsin Might Win: The Badgers are No. 1 in the Big Ten against the run. Le'Veon Bell and Michigan State finished with 61 rushing yards in the win, and in the last three games UW has failed to allow 100 yards on the ground and hasn't given up a touchdown. Even Nebraska, who tore off 259 yards, helped by a big day from Taylor Martinez, only ran for one score. Wisconsin's problems come against smart, quick-hitting passing games that involve the backs in matchup mismatches, and while Ohio State can throw a little bit, the passing attack usually works when Braxton Miller makes things happen on the move. The Buckeyes are efficient through the air, and they'll connect on at least one home run, but they need to run to win.

Defensively, Ohio State doesn't give up huge plays through the air on a regular basis, but it does give up yards. Indiana was able to mount a comeback with 352 passing yards and three scores, and Penn State threw without a problem rolling up 327 yards and two touchdowns. OSU has allowed 200 passing yards or more in every game except for last week's layup against Illinois, which means the spotlight will now be on …

What To Watch Out For: … the Wisconsin passing game. The Badgers aren't going to be able to hide Curt Phillips this week. Phillips took over for an injured Joel Stave and an ineffective Danny O'Brien to complete 4-of-7 passes for 41 yards and a touchdown against Indiana, but he also ran for 68 yards. Montee Ball, James White and the running attack set a school-record with 564 yards and seven scores, but this week, Phillips will have to connect on a few downfield plays and loosen things up a bit so Ryan Shazier and the OSU linebackers don't tee off. Shazier came up with 14 stops against Illinois last week and Zach Boren made eight tackles.

What Will Happen: Wisconsin will come up with its strongest performance of the year – considering the competition – but the rested Buckeyes will still come through with a tough win. Miller's speed will overcome the experience of the strong Badger linebacking corps that might not have star Chris Borland at 100% after suffering an apparent hamstring injury against the Hoosiers. It will be yet another close loss in a big game against OSU.

CFN Prediction: Ohio State 23 … Wisconsin 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Wisconsin -3 O/U: 53
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 4.5