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Big 10 Football Pick
Could Ohio State finish 12-0 and not make it to a bowl game? Very possible. This week they'll travel to Wisconsin, the winners of the Leaders division, mainly because they haven't had much competition for it. All the Badgers had to do last week was beat Indiana to win the division and they proceeded to do so, by 48 points. So far, road games haven't phased the Buckeyes that much this year. They already traveled to Michigan State and Penn State and grabbed wins on the legs of Braxton Miller.
Even with a better offense last season, the Badgers were still unable to grab a win in Columbus. Miller only passed for 89 yards in that game, but Ohio State was able to run for 268 yards which was the main difference as Wisconsin only had 89 rushing yards in Montee Ball's Heisman candidate season.
Surprisingly, the Badgers are still favorites with Curt Phillips getting the start. Phillips has only attempted seven passes this year and they all came in last week's start at Indiana. Due to Joel Stave's injury and Danny O'Brien's ineffectiveness, Phillips, the fifth-year senior was given the start. His ability to move on the ground was obviously looked at beforehand and then he proved it with a 52-yard run against the Hoosiers. If he wants to be successful, he'll need to find top receiver Jared Abbrederis often. The WR had 113 yards and two TDs against OSU last year. Ball and James White combined for 359 yards and five TDs last week on the ground, but will have a much harder time finding room to run in this one. Their production will be key as the two only totaled 62 yards on 29 carries against Michigan State a few weeks ago in a home loss.
The Buckeyes defense isn't as good as year's past, but when needed, they've come up big. In their road wins at MSU and PSU, they stopped two power rushing teams to a combined 66 yards. If they can do that again, the game will be on the shoulders of Phillips which is exactly what Ohio State wants.
As for the OSU offense, Miller has done it all this year, throwing for 14 TDs and rushing for 13 more. His 1,166 rushing yards lead the team by far. The only school that really stopped him was Purdue, which was surprising. He ended up getting hurt in that game, missing the fourth quarter. Even if Wisconsin can stop him on the ground, Miller isn't a great passer, but he can still move the ball down the field. Against California earlier in the season, Miller was called upon to pass more and he did throwing for season highs with 30 pass attempts, 249 yards and four TDs. While Miller gets most of the attention out of the backfield, Carlos Hyde is still having a good year despite dealing with injuries early on. He has 11 TDs and three 100-plus yard games in his last five contests.
Ohio State is 27-10-1 ATS in their last 38 road games while Wisconsin is 13-5-1 ATS in their last 19 home games. The Badgers are also 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall this season. In this meeting, the Badgers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and the underdog is 9-3 ATS in their last 12 meetings.
Our numbers say Wisconsin by about 8. We think they are likely the better team here. They also have a revenge motive working for them, after losing last year, and for that matter, 4 of the last 5 in this series. But be leery of a letdown here. Wisconsin was fired up to beat Indiana last week and clinch their spot in the Big 10 title game. Now what? Sure, they'd like to beat Ohio State, but there's no urgency here. Ohio State on the other hand, has plenty to play for. For the Buckeyes, there will be no bowl games and no title games. Their motivation, and a building block for the future, is a 12-0 perfect season. With that in mind, we're going to go against our numbers here and take the Buckeyes to stay undefeated. Ohio State +3