Ohio State-Wisconsin matchups

QUARTERBACKS

After three games, C.J. Stroud looks like he could be better than last year, a scary thought for the rest of the Big Ten.

Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz is a three-year starter. He has thrown for 697 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Badgers (2-1) in wins over Illinois State and New Mexico State and a loss to Washington State.

Advantage: Ohio State

RUNNING BACKS

Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson left a 77-21 win over Toledo last week after only eight plays, which could be a cause for concern this week because defending the run is something Wisconsin has done well.

Sophomore Braelon Allen appears to be the most recent in a long line of good running backs at Wisconsin. He has rushed for 332 yards and 5 touchdowns and ran for 1,268 yards last season.

Advantage: Ohio State

RECEIVERS

Ohio State eased injured receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming back into action against Toledo but Fleming still caught two touchdown passes in limited playing time. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka combined for 13 catches and four touchdowns.

Chimere Dike (9 catches, 172 yards) and Skyler Bell (8 catches, 146 yards) are the Badgers’ top receivers. Bell caught two touchdown passes in a 66-7 win over New Mexico State last week, which was the first time a Wisconsin receiver did that since 2019.

Advantage: Ohio State

OFFENSIVE LINE

Coach Ryan Day said Ohio State “played physical” when OSU gained 763 yards in its 77-21 win over Toledo.

The strength of Wisconsin’s offensive line is on its left side with left tackle Jack Nelson and left guard Tyler Beach. Center Joe Tippman was honorable mention All-Big Ten last season.

Advantage: Ohio State

DEFENSIVE LINE

Javonte Jean-Baptiste had two sacks and forced a fumble, one of two takeaways OSU had last week. Mike Hall was among several players who did not play in what Day described as a “precautionary” decision.

Nose tackle Keeanu Benton, who was second-team All-Big Ten last season, and defensive end Isaiah Mullens are the leaders of Wisconsin’s defensive front line.

Advantage: Ohio State

LINEBACKERS

Tommy Eichenberg and Cody Simon were among OSU’s leaders in tackles against Toledo. Palaie Gaoteote recovered a fumble.

Maema Njongmeta leads Wisconsin with 19 tackles. Nick Herbig has 5 tackles for losses and 4 sacks in three games. Last season he had 9 sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses.

Advantage: Wisconsin

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Injuries could be a concern for OSU’s defensive backfield. Starting cornerback Cameron Brown left the Toledo game in the second quarter. Safeties Josh Proctor and Tanner McAlister were among several Buckeyes who did not play in that game.

Safety John Torchio is tied for second on the team in tackles and has one of Wisconsin’s 7 interceptions. Graduate transfer cornerback Jay Shaw was second-team all-Pac 12 at UCLA last season.

Advantage: Ohio State

SPECIAL TEAMS

It was a quiet week for OSU’s special teams. The Buckeyes punted only once and did not attempt a field goal against Toledo.

Wisconsin punter Andy Vujnovich is averaging 46.6 yards per punt. Vito Calvaruso and Nate Van Zelst have shared the kicker’s position.

Advantage: Ohio State

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.