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Wisconsin football versus Ohio State by the numbers

A preview of Wisconsin versus Ohio State based on several key indicators and statistics.
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After a 59-point win over New Mexico State, the Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) enter this weekend's matchup with Ohio State (3-0) as double-digit underdogs. 

The Badgers are hoping to play the role of spoiler on Saturday night in Columbus, with a lot riding on the game for both teams

Here is a look at how the Badgers and Buckeyes compare based on some key numbers from the three weeks of the college football season:

Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi running with the ball against New Mexico State.

Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi carrying the football against New Mexico State. 

Offense

Wisconsin

  • Scoring: 39.3 points per game, No. 32 in FBS, No. 6 in Big Ten
  • Total yards: 478.7 yards per game, No. 31 in FBS, No. 6 in Big Ten
  • Rushing offense: 218.3 yards per game, No. 26 in FBS, No. 5 in Big Ten
  • Passing offense: 260.3 yards per game, No. 47 in FBS, No. 9 in Big Ten
  • Time of Possession: 32 minutes and 59 seconds, No. 24 in FBS, No. 3 in Big Ten

Ohio State

  • Scoring: 47.7 points per game, No. 10 in FBS, No. 3 in Big Ten
  • Total yards: 565.3 yards per game, No. 1 in FBS, No. 1 in Big Ten
  • Rushing offense: 207 yards per game, No. 35 in FBS, No. 6 in Big Ten
  • Passing offense: 358.3 yards per game, No. 7 in FBS, No. 2 in Big Ten
  • Time of Possession: 30 minutes and 14 seconds, No. 64 in FBS, No. 9 in Big Ten

Wisconsin's offense is in a much better place than it was at this time last year, but there are still areas that need to improve. Quarterback Graham Mertz has looked more confident and in control of the offense through the first three games as well, with several capable targets around him. However, this weekend the Badgers will be going against a much more talented team and arguably the best offense in the entire country. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is a Heisman Trophy favorite, and the Buckeyes have multiple running backs and wide receivers that can break-open a game any time they touch the football. 

The Badgers have done a great job of moving the ball this year and have been better at generating explosive plays. The key for the Wisconsin offense will be finishing drives and mitigating mistakes that give the ball back to Ohio State's high-powered offense this Saturday. 

Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig pumps up the crowd after a sack.

Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig celebrates after a sack versus New Mexico State. 

Defense

Wisconsin

  • Scoring defense: Eight points per game allowed, No. 8 in FBS, No. 4 in Big Ten
  • Total yards allowed: 246 yards per game, No. 11 in FBS, No. 5 in Big Ten
  • Rushing defense: 76 yards allowed per game, No. 13 in FBS, No. 3 in Big Ten
  • Passing defense: 170 yards allowed per game, No. 19 in FBS, No. 4 in Big Ten
  • Sacking the QB: 2.33 per game, No. 47 in FBS, No. 7 in Big Ten
  • Tackles for loss: 6.7 per game, No. 39 in FBS, No. 5 in Big Ten

Ohio State

  • Scoring defense: 14.3 points per game allowed, No. 24 in FBS, No. 7 in Big Ten
  • Total yards allowed: 278.7 yards per game, No. 21 in FBS, No. 7 in Big Ten
  • Rushing defense: 84.3 yards allowed per game, No. 24 in FBS, No. 5 in Big Ten
  • Passing defense: 194.3 yards allowed per game, No. 42 in FBS, No. 6 in Big Ten
  • Sacking the QB: 2.67 per game, No. 27 in FBS, No. 4 in Big Ten
  • Tackles for loss: Nine per game, No. 7 in FBS, No. 1 in Big Ten
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Wisconsin and Ohio State each have attacking-style defenses that have been good through the first few weeks of the season. Jim Leonhard has the Badgers defense playing well despite losing several starters from a season ago, while new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has made significant changes to the Ohio State defense.

The Wisconsin defense will have by far its biggest test of the season versus the Buckeyes, and it will be paramount that they put pressure on C.J. Stroud to make him uncomfortable. The Ohio State offense is too good to allow Stroud time in the pocket, and the Badgers are still expected to be without Alexander Smith on Saturday. 

Ohio State deploys a 4-2-5 defense, meaning that the Badgers should have extra numbers in the box to potentially run the football, but it will be up to the Wisconsin offensive line to create some push and open up holes for Braelon Allen and protect Graham Mertz. The Buckeyes have a lot of talent up front, and the group has looked good against the run and in pass-rushing situations. The Wisconsin line will need to play well to give the Badgers a chance. 

Wisconsin running back Isaac Guerendo running with the football down the sideline against Washington State.

Wisconsin running back and kick return specialist Isaac Guerendo running with the football against Washington State. 

Special Teams/Turnovers/Penalties

Wisconsin

  • Kickoff return: 34 yards per return, No. 6 in the FBS, No. 1 in Big Ten
  • Punt return: 0.6 yards per return, No. 122 in the FBS, No. 13 in Big Ten
  • Net punting: 43.3 yards per punt, No. 16 in FBS, No. 5 in Big Ten
  • Turnover margin: +1.33, No. 18 in the FBS, No. 3 in Big Ten
  • Penalties per game: 7.5 per game, T-No. 93 in FBS
  • Penalty yards: 78 yards per game, No. 115 in FBS

Ohio State

  • Kickoff return: 21 yards per return, No. 55 in the FBS, No. 7 in Big Ten
  • Punt return: 8.2 yards per return, No. 62 in the FBS, No. 6 in Big Ten
  • Net punting: 43.7 yards per punt, No. 10 in FBS, No. 3 in Big Ten
  • Turnover margin: +.33, No. 47 in the FBS, No. 5 in Big Ten
  • Penalties per game: 5.7 per game, T-No. 46 in FBS
  • Penalty yards: 55 yards per game, No. 60 in FBS

Special teams and penalties will each play a critical role in this Saturday's contest. The Badgers have had areas of great, with Isaac Guerendo providing a spark to the kick return unit and Andy Vujnovich being one of the best punters in college football. However, punt return and the kicking game have been inconsistent at best for the Badgers, and penalties have been an issue all season long. 

Wisconsin will need to play a clean game this weekend, and big plays in special teams or forced turnovers would go a long way in helping the Badgers against one of the best teams in the nation. 

Make no mistake, Wisconsin will need to play great in all three phases of the game to pull off an upset in Columbus. 

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