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B1G Leaders Week 5 Preview: Badgers vs Bucks is Everything

Only four Big Ten games are scheduled this weekend, prescription with a lot of the conference on a bye for week 5.  In the Leaders Division both Penn State and Indiana are off until they face each other next weekend.  Only one game really matters Saturday, cure and it could be one of the best B1G match-ups all season – the #23 Wisconsin Badgers at the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes.  These two teams are pretty much vying for the Big Ten Championship game and as relatively equal overall powerhouses in the conference, this is probably a game you don’t want to miss.

Yes, Nittany Lions fans, before you get your panties in a wad, the reason that Penn State is not included in talk about the Big Ten Title Game is the continuation of their 4-year bowl ban.  And on that note, PSU got some good news this week.  And the NCAA looks even more inept than before.

From the official released statement:

 “…based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State and former U.S. Senator.

Beginning next academic year (2014-15), five additional initial scholarships will be restored to the university’s football team. This amount will continue to increase until they reach the full allocation of 25 initial in 2015-16 and 85 total football scholarships in 2016-17.”

Ahhh…a former U.S. Senator.  No wonder the NCAA is such a bloated, inconsistent, favoritism-based hot mess.  So Penn State is gradually getting its lost scholarships returned and the bowl ban could eventually be lifted early too, as part of the statement included making mention that they are adjusting as they go based on Penn State’s cooperation and progress.  Hey, how’s that University of Miami sentence comin’, NCAA?  Strippers, cash, abortions, mansions, drugs, parties…Miami Vice didn’t make up episodes as good as those kids were livin’.  I despise hashtags but:  #Bitter.

Here’s what to know for this weekend’s Leaders division:

11:00am on BTN:  Miami (Ohio) at Illinois

Why you should care:   The Fighting Illini are fighting back from last season’s 2-10 record.  At 2-1, they have already shown vast improvement, much of which credit is given to head coach Tim Beckman’s hire of offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who’s known for making stars out of quarterbacks.

Highly touted Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has shown moments of the brilliance expected from him this year and looking more like his dual-threat freshman-season self.  Even with a bye last weekend, he leads the B1G in passing with 294.7 yards per game.

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Linebacker Jonathan Brown is impressive on defense.  Having played only three games, he leads the league with 38 tackles.  Even in a loss to #19 Washington (now #16), the Illini hung in there, losing 34-24.

Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is known as the “Cradle of Coaches” for producing countless well-known, highly-successful, Hall of Famer coaches, in both football and basketball.  To name a few, legends including Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler, Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian and Illinois’ very own Ron Zook.  Right now with Coach Don Treadwell?  Not so much.

The Miami Redhawks roll into Illinois with a 0-3 record, and lost 14-0 last weekend to the Cincinnati Bearcats, whom the Illini destroyed the previous week, 45-17.  At 121st in passing and 120th in rushing in the nation, previously respectable Miami is one of the worst MAC teams.

Look for Illinois to advance to 3-0 in a high-scoring win, but save the “Number One” chants til conference play begins.  There could be a few ugly games.

 

7:00pm on ABC:  #23 Wisconsin at #4 Ohio State  

Why you should care To quote Ted in Sixteen Candles, “This…is getting good.”  Finally, a Big Ten marquee match-up!  The two best teams in the Leaders division go head-to-head in the ‘Shoe at night.  The crowd will be insane, the game will be a slugfest, and to the victor will go the trip to the Big Ten Title game.

Ohio State and Wisconsin have both been leaders in the division (no pun intended) for over a decade, and this game is consistently a great one to watch that often contains still talked about or game-changing plays.  I’m a big believer in knowing your history in anything, so here are some facts about the Badgers and Buckeyes, their match-ups and the lead up to this game:

  • Ohio State has won five of the last six meetings with Wisconsin.
  • Despite the Buckeyes beating them last year, the Badgers went on to the Big Ten Title game due only to the fact that OSU was under a post-season ban. (Not this year, my friends.)
  • Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl the past three years in a row.
  • The Badgers are 0-3 in Pasadena the past three years in a row, losing to TCU, Oregon (whom OSU beat in the Rose Bowl in 2010) and Stanford.
  • These two teams have held at least a share of every Big Ten Championship since 2005.
  • First-year Wisconsin Head Coach Gary Andersen coached under Ohio State second-year Head Coach Urban Meyer at Utah and they are close friends who speak highly of one another.  (This will have no effect at all, Meyer had no problem destroying and embarrassing the Buckeyes – a team his love & respect for and ties to run very, very deep – during the National Championship game against Florida.)
  • 10 of the last 28 game match-ups between these two were decided by 4-points or less.  Another four of those were by 7-points.
  • Both teams are coming in feeling very confident after their first four games of the season.

Ohio State has been looking awfully good, especially on offense with two star quarterbacks and several top playmakers in Jordan Hall, Philly Brown, Devin Smith, Carlos Hyde and Evan Spencer.  They’ve scored 210 points in their first four games – racking up 40, 42, 52, and 76, respectively. Numbers that high will probably only be seen as the combined total points of Saturday’s game, as both teams’ defense needs to play a big role.  (Does anybody else wonder WWTD – What Would Tressel Do – in those games?  I mean, even his 2006 NCG-contender team’s highest score in that perfect season was a 44.)

Guiton and Miller

The biggest question for Ohio State is who will start at quarterback – Braxton Miller, star and Heisman hopeful who hasn’t played a full game since the season opener due to injury, or Kenny Guiton, who led the Bucks to big wins in games 2-4 and made it look easy along the way, setting school records and winning conference and national awards recognition.  The biggest news is that on Ohio State’s Wednesday-released depth chart Miller and Guiton are listed as co-starters.

On defense, linebacker Ryan Shazier continues to lead his team with 28 tackles.  Expect him to be a dominant force in this game.

Wisconsin has been known for their secondary but are lacking in depth this year, which could be an issue with OSU’s much-improved passing game.  However, while they allowed 352 yards against Arizona State, they did not allow a passing touchdown and have not allowed one at all so far this year.

What the Badgers do have is running backs Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement and James White, possibly the hottest trio since the Beastie Boys.  Okay, yeah, maybe not that hot.  But combined they’ve run for just shy of 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns already this season.  Plus linebacker Chris Borland, who is one of the best in the B1G and leads his team with 30 tackles.

Badgers QB Joel Stave is not the strongest or most consistent passer and he should probably stick to a ground game, though OSU has been able to defend the rush attack well in previous match-ups.

I expect that OSU will try to jump out to a significant lead as they have in every game this season, preferably one the Badgers can’t recover from.  The Bucks are favored and should have an advantage on several skill levels, in a night game, with a loud and excited Buckeye crowd in the Horseshoe.  It’s high time to take that Pasadena honor back from the actual runner-up.

 

About the author: Kristin Conrad is a college football-loving graduate of Ohio State – she bleeds Scarlet & Gray and considers the Varsity Club hallowed ground. A PR pro who just moved back to Columbus from Manhattan Beach, Chicago and NYC, she’s been happy to find that some of her favorite friends ever are from schools she used to hate and that nothing brings people together like sports does.

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