Big Ten powers out of the East and West divisions will clash on Saturday night in the Horseshoe when No. 3 Ohio State hosts Wisconsin in the conference opener for both programs. Of course, while both teams have proven to be powers in their respective divisions over the years, the series between the two, like many involving Ohio State, is lopsided. The Buckeyes have won eight straight meetings against Wisconsin and 11 of the last 12. Wisconsin’s only win in the series since 2005 was a 31-18 win in Madison during the 2010 season.
Wisconsin jumped out to a 21-0 lead that day, with David Gilreath returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. These days, a 21-0 lead against Ohio State might not be big enough with the way the Buckeyes offense can put up points; Ohio State is averaging 47.7 points per game through their first three games.
What do you need to know ahead of Saturday’s prime time showdown in Columbus? Let’s get you caught up and make some picks.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin: Need to know
Ohio State scored 77 points last week: The Buckeyes beat Toledo 77-21 last week in an awe-inspiring offensive display. However, the 11 touchdowns scored actually marked the fifth time the Buckeyes have hit that mark in a game since the 2000 season. The last time was in 2019 in a 76-5 (what a score) win over Miami (OH). The Buckeyes offense had 763 yards in that game, which is the second-highest mark any Ohio State offense has amassed in a single game since 2000. The highest was 776 yards in a 77-10 win (another one of those 11 TD games) against Bowling Green in 2016. However, the biggest difference in the two games is that Ohio State needed to run 94 plays against Bowling Green (8.3 yards per) but only 78 plays (9.8 yards per) against Toledo. The bottom line: it was a ridiculous performance.
The Buckeyes are still loaded at receiver: Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were two of Ohio State’s top receivers last year, but they left to play in the NFL. Jaxon Smith-Njigba was left behind and is considered one of the best receivers in the country, but he suffered an injury early in Ohio State’s season-opener against Notre Dame and has hardly played since. No matter; the Ohio State Wide Receiver Industrial Complex motors on without issue. Marvin Harrison Jr. — you might recognize that name — leads the team with 342 yards receiving and five touchdowns through three games, and Emeka Egbuka is right behind him with 324 yards and three touchdowns. Jayden Ballard and Xavier Johnson have stepped in to fill the third and fourth receiver roles, while tight end Cade Stover is averaging over 17 yards per catch.
Graham Mertz is off to an encouraging start: The former five-star quarterback recruit has not lived up to the billing since joining the Badgers, but there are encouraging signs through Wisconsin’s first three games of 2022. Mertz enters the week completing 71% of his passes for an impressive 11.2 yards per attempt. He’s also thrown six touchdowns, though I’m sure coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin coaching staff have harped on him about the two interceptions. Still, for a player who threw 19 touchdowns to 16 interceptions in his first two seasons, a 3-to-1 ratio is an improvement. Of course, it must be pointed out that Wisconsin’s first three games of the year have come against Illinois State, Washington State and New Mexico State. It’s no coincidence that Mertz’s worst effort came in Wisconsin’s 17-14 loss to the Cougars. If the Badgers are going to have a realistic chance of pulling off an upset, they’ll need Mertz to be the player he was in Wisconsin’s two wins.
How to watch Ohio State vs. Wisconsin live
Date: Saturday, September 24 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Ohio Stadium — Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin prediction, picks
Featured Game | Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers
While I have way too much respect for Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard to believe Ohio State will do the kinds of things to it that it’s done to its last couple opponents, I don’t have nearly the same level of faith in the Wisconsin offense to keep up in this game. Until Mertz proves to me that he can be relied upon against top opponents, I won’t bet on it being the case. Lay the points with the Buckeyes. Prediction: Ohio State -18
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