A pair of cross-division rivals meet up in Columbus as Ohio State welcomes Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener in college football's Week 4 action on Saturday.
Ohio State is perfect through 3 games behind the No. 1 total offense in college football while Wisconsin already has one costly loss, at home to Washington State, but is playing behind the nation's 8th best scoring defense.
Here's what you need to know about this weekend's matchup.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin football preview, prediction
How to watch
When: Sat., Sept. 24
Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ABC network
Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Odds, point spread, betting lines
Line: Ohio State -19
Moneyline: WIS +650, OSU -1205
FPI pick: Ohio State 89.0%
What you need to know
1. The unstoppable force. Once again, the Buckeyes are absolutely loaded with skill pieces that can carve up almost any secondary with a battery of diverse patterns and perimeter stealth that can open up space in the deep portion of the field. Marvin Harrison and Emeka Egbuka have 666 yards receiving and 8 TDs catches, leading a unit that leads the nation with 565.3 ypg and is 10th with 47.7 points per game. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams have 404 combined yards rushing, while CJ Stroud is playing turnover-free football, almost to 1,000 yards passing already, with 11 TDs and almost 73% completion.
2. And the immovable object. Well, "immovable" might be a stretch, but the Badgers always put out a solid defensive product under Jim Leonhard. Wisconsin is allowing all of 8 points per game, 8th nationally, a year after leading college football in total defense and yards per play, even ahead of Georgia. It might be down some key pieces thanks to injury in the secondary, but Wisky still has surrendered all of 1 TD pass while intercepting 7 of its own.
3. Jim Knowles vs. Braelon Allen. Good returns so far on the Buckeyes' new-look defense under Knowles' management, but the Notre Dame game doesn't look quite as impressive thanks to the Irish's struggles since. This week should prove a more detailed litmus test as the front seven lines up against one of college football's premier blocking units and lead rusher Braelon Allen, who has 5 TDs on 50 carries and is at nearly 7 ypc. OSU struggled against elite backs a year ago and have a chance to show some vital progress this week.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin: Fast Facts
+ Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz has improved this year, ranking 5th nationally in pass efficiency and is 3rd with 11.2 ypa
+ Ohio State has won 8 straight over Wisconsin
+ Wisconsin has intercepted a pass in 8 straight games
+ OSU quarterback CJ Stroud is 2nd nationally with a pass efficiency rating of 208.6, 22 pts higher than his mark last year
+ UW is 50-9 when scoring first under Paul Chryst and 17-15 when not
+ Ohio State has averaged 40-plus points in every game under Ryan Day
+ Wisconsin is 108-8 when scoring 20-plus points under Chryst
+ OSU had fewer than 30 pts in 8 of 40 games under Day and is 4-4 in those matchups
+ Wisconsin is 42-4 under Chryst allowing 15 or fewer points
+ Ohio State allowed 4 TDs so far, forcing punts on 22 of 35 possessions (63%), 11 teams have allowed fewer
+ Wisconsin is 39-2 under Chryst when it has fewer turnovers
+ OSU is 9th nationally with 27 tackles for loss
+ Mertz went over 80% passing in 2 of 3 games so far
+ Ohio State is 20-5 at home at night and won 9 of its last 10
+ UW is 62-4 under Chryst when leading after 3 quarters and 5-18 when not
Running the ball and blocking for the run is what Wisconsin does. Braelon Allen is the latest in a long line of backs the Badgers have who can move the chains, burn clock, and maintain possession.
Wisconsin will indeed limit how often the Buckeyes get the ball in their hands, but they can make up for that lost time with a quick-strike offense unlike almost any other in college football.
Ohio State already proved it can play a little Tresselball itself with a statement pair of drives in the opener against Notre Dame, including that 95-yard charge led by Miyan Williams. OSU wants to prove it's not just a pass-happy, highlight-reel team, and can win games the old fashioned way.
Not that there won't be some bombs from Stroud to his receivers, but the Buckeyes will show they can not just build a lead, but protect it in the Big Ten opener, an important building block en route to the College Football Playoff.
College Football HQ Prediction: Ohio State 38, Wisconsin 20
College football rankings
According to AP top 25 poll
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- NC State
- Penn State
- Ole Miss
- Wake Forest
- Texas A&M