The sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes can claim the Leaders Division title outright with a win this week over Wisconsin, as the two teams square off in Big Ten Conference action from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Although they were idle last weekend, the undefeated Buckeyes claimed at least a share of the Leaders Division title. Unfortunately, they can not play for the Big Ten championship, or go to a bowl game for that matter, as they are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. That said, putting the wraps on a perfect season is what the team is focused on now, although accomplishing the feat won't be easy as following this clash with Wisconsin, OSU will take on hated rival Michigan in the finale on Nov. 24.
As for the Badgers, they clinched a berth in the Big Ten title tilt for the second straight season following last Saturday's 62-14 thrashing of Indiana, on the road no less. With the win, Wisconsin improved to 7-3 on the year and ran its league ledger to 4-2. The Badgers close out the regular season on the road next Saturday against another team ineligible for the postseason, that of course being Penn State.
Ohio State owns a commanding 54-17-5 advantage in the all-time series with Wisconsin, but things have been much more competitive in recent years, with the Buckeyes laying claim to a 15-11-1 mark in the last 27 meetings.
One of only four unbeaten teams left in the FBS, Ohio State averages 39.9 ppg in churning out 445.3 ypg. The run (256.1 ypg, 34 TDs) has been the team's weapon of choice, but the pass has accounted for 16 scores and nearly 190 ypg as well. On the other side of the coin, the Buckeyes are permitting 23.9 ppg, with foes having a particularly tough time finding running lanes (107.9 ypg). The defense has picked it up of late, allowing only 43 points in the last three games combined.
Before the Buckeyes enjoyed their bye week, they routed Illinois in a 52-22 final, dominating the game in all aspects. Ohio State outgained the Illini, 567-170, held a 32-15 advantage in first downs and allowed the visitors to convert just 2-of-14 third-down opportunities.
Carlos Hyde rushed for 137 yards and three TDs to power the OSU offense in the win, and he is averaging 104.7 yards in Big Ten play with 12 scores. He is just 267 yards shy of becoming the Buckeyes' second 1,000-yard rusher of the season, joining QB Braxton Miller (1,166 yards).
A 56.9 percent passer on the year who has 14 TD passes and only six interceptions, Miller threw for 226 yards and two TDs against the Illini, while adding 73 yards and a score with his legs. Corey Brown led all pass catchers in the game with 79 yards, and he had a TD grab as well.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier totaled 14 tackles, 11 of which were solo efforts, in the most recent win, earning yet another Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award. He has a team-high 98 stops on the year, which includes 11.5 TFL and four sacks. DB Travis Howard has four of the team's 13 interceptions.
Hyde is gaining confidence with each passing week, and following the win over Illinois he spoke about his attributes.
"I run with passion, aggression and attitude. I feel like I can't be brought down and I run with that in my mind, which allows me to run hard. It doesn't matter who scores more running touchdowns between Braxton and me because I just want to help my team win in whatever way possible."
Montee Ball ran for 198 yards and three TDs, and James White added 161 yards and two scores to power the Badgers to their easy win at Indiana last Saturday. Wisconsin finished the game with a school-record 564 yards rushing, as it averaged 8.8 ypc. The Badgers scored on all seven of their trips to the red zone, including five TDs.
Ball is now second all-time in the NCAA with 77 career TDs, and needs just two more to take over the top spot from former Miami-Ohio star Travis Prentice (78).
Senior QB Curt Phillips made his first career start against the Hoosiers, and went just 4-of-7 for 41 yards with a TD, while carrying the ball seven times for 68 yards.
The Wisconsin defense held Indiana to just 294 total yards, which included a dismal 61 yards rushing. Marc Cromartie and Chris Borland each had eight tackles to pace the Badgers.
For the season, UW is averaging 29.5 ppg while allowing 17.2 ppg. Not surprisingly, the team rushes for more than 218 ypg, and has scored 27 of its 37 offensive TDs on the ground. Ball has gained 1,226 yards and found the end zone 16 times, while White has scored eight times in amassing 647 yards.
Foes are averaging just 103.4 ypg rushing against the Badgers, who have permitted only five TDs on the ground this year.
Mike Taylor heads the defense with 95 tackles, 12 of which have been behind the line of scrimmage, and Devin Smith has half of the team's six picks. In fact, the Badgers have only forced 12 turnovers all season, with three fumble recoveries being credited to Borland.
After the record-setting performance against Indiana, UW center Travis Frederick praised the effort of the entire offense.
"The running backs did a tremendous job, the tight ends really blocked well and the wide receivers made some good blocks on the outside. We did a good job today as a team."