Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Pick

#14 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-1) -2 at #18 Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) +2
Saturday, October 4, 2008 – 8pm ET- ABC
Camp Randall Stadium – Madison, Wisconsin
by Matt of Predictem.com

There will be a primetime Big Ten battle in Madison this Saturday, as the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Camp Randall to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams had hoped to be undefeated entering this game when the schedule came out, but both have slipped once in the early going, making this game a make or break for a backdoor BCS bid. The game kicks at 8pm ET and can be seen on ABC.

Ohio State opened as a 2 point favorite, but State can be found anywhere from -1 to -2.5 depending on your College Football sportsbook of choice. The Buckeyes are -120 on the money line with the Badgers at +100. The over/under total for the game is 44.

The Buckeyes are coming in at 4-1 on the year, 0-1 on the road after a 35-3 loss at USC a few weeks back. OSU is 1-0 in the conference after handling Minnesota last week by a score of 34-21. The Buckeyes cruised through their home non-conference schedule by a combined tally of 97-24 against the likes of Troy, Ohio and Youngstown State.

The Badgers rolled into last week as the 9th ranked team in the NCAA after wins against Akron, Marshall and Fresno State, but could not keep the run going, dropping a 27-25 decision at Michigan. Wisconsin is 3-1 on the year overall and is 2-0 at Camp Randall in ’08.

Ohio State will be looking for its first win against the spread this year as they are 0-4 to this point amidst high expectations. OSU is 0 for 5 ATS going back to last year, but has done very well in conference of late, posting an 11-4 ATS mark in the last 15 Big Ten games.

The Badgers are 2-2 against the spread on the year and have been good at home with a 4-1 ATS record in the last five games in Wisconsin. The Badgers have scuffled in the Big Ten recently, going only 2-7 ATS in their last 9 conference games. This game has been kind to the underdog over the years with the favorite at 1-7 ATS in the last eight meetings of this series.

Ohio State is developing a diverse offense with the play of freshman quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. While Todd Boeckman is the senior leader, Pryor is a Vince Young type player, capable of beating defenses with his arm or legs. Pryor has 296 yards passing on the year with five TD’s against one INT while adding 292 yards on the ground and another three TD’s. Boeckman has 446 yards through the air so far and has thrown for three TD’s. Both QB’s should see time with the hot hand seeing the most time as the game goes on.

Chris Wells is nearing 100% after a foot injury in week two, he rushed for 106 yards against Minnesota last week. Daniel Herron will spell Wells and has contributed with 265 rushing yards and one TD with Wells out. Brian Robiskie is the go-to target for Pryor and Boeckman, racking up 200 yards on 20 catches in ’08 with four touchdowns.

As a defense, the Buckeyes are a top-25 unit in terms of yards and points allowed and will test Wisconsin’s ability to run as they give up less than 100 yards rushing on average.

The Badgers bring a run heavy offense with big, agile backs that run behind a massive offensive line. Wisconsin will grind it out with P.J. Hill and bring in John Clay for a change of pace. Hill and Clay have combined for 540 yards and eight TD’s on the year and have the Badgers ranked 14th in the NCAA in rushing yards per game. Allan Evridge has thrown for 752 yards as a complement to the ground game, throwing four TD’s against three INT’s. Evridge will try to find TE Travis Beckum this week after connecting only twice with the big play threat in the Michigan game. David Gilreath is a wideout and kick returner that is emerging as a high level player.

The Badger D is solid if unspectacular, ranking in the top-35 in points and total yards allowed. They will be challenged to corral Pryor a week after letting Michigan’s Steven Threet loose a few times.

Both teams are at near full strength with neither squad reporting significant injuries. Weather should not be a factor in Madison with the forecast calling for clear skies and temps in the low-50’s at kickoff.

The Badgers should have put the Wolverines away last week after jumping out to a 19-0 lead, so look for a better second half effort this week out of Wisconsin at Camp Randall. Ohio State has looked good against lesser foes, but missed the mark by a wide margin against USC in Southern California.

Matt’s Pick: Look for the Badgers to control the ball to keep Pryor on the bench and come up with one big play at the end to win straight up 27-23.