The last time Ohio State saw the ‘motion w’ staring across the field at them in the Big Ten championship game, the result was complete Buckeyes domination en route to a national championship.
The two titans of the Big Ten meet on Saturday for just the second time in the B1G title game, only it is the Badgers with a sure-fire College Football Playoff spot on the line.
Ohio State comes in with two losses, but plenty left to still play for at No. 8 in the country. There’s an outside chance of a playoff spot and certainly a New Years Six bowl game to be played for.
But, none of that happens without a win and how do the Buckeyes get there? Let’s take a look at some of the big keys for the Buckeyes to win.
Get Off to a Fast Start
How do you beat a team that excels in the second half? Crush their dreams early. I know, simple, right?
Sometimes the most obvious answer is also the right answer. In the case of the Buckeyes beating the Badgers, the obvious answer is to get out to a fast start. It’s what OSU does best and takes advantage of a Badgers team that doesn’t score points early and often.
Forcing the Badgers to play from behind by building up a couple score lead in the first quarter would be huge. Now, a 10-point lead or less doesn’t work. Wisconsin has trailed like that in the first half plenty and it mattered none in the end as the Badgers just plugged away and blew away teams in the second half.
Ohio State has to jump on the Badgers with a 14-17 point lead and get them out of the ability to just ball control you to death. Luckily, that is exactly what Ohio State has been good at all season. OSU has scored 24.5 percent of its points in the first quarter this season.
The caveat to all this is that the Badgers defense has been lights out in the first quarter, allowing only 40 points (at least 14 of which came off of pick sixes) to opponents all season.
If the Buckeyes can score points early, it likely means the Badgers recipe for success on both sides of the ball is blown up and that is very much advantage Ohio State.
Make Alex Hornibrook Beat You
Another simple to say, hard to do situation here. Not because Hornibrook is an All-World quarterback, but because many a good defense has tried to take on the Badgers run game and all have really failed to do so. Only three times this season have the Badgers been held under the 200-yard mark as a team on the ground.
So, can the Buckeyes defense do it? If they want to win, they don’t have a choice. Picking between Jonathan Taylor or Alex Hornibrook to beat you should be an easy choice, because Taylor has been the best running back in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation this season, while Hornibrook has been an average or below average quarterback most of the year.
Ironically, one of those games was against Michigan, and in that game it was Hornibrook who helped get Wisconsin over the finish line. But, the devil is in the details as Hornibrook’s raw numbers suggest the formula that should work. He finished the game just 9 of 19 for 143 yards and just one touchdown to one interception.
Ohio State would love to limit Hornibrook to a single touchdown throw and only nine completions. The problem for Michigan in that game is that a lot of his work came when the Badgers needed to move the chains or score points.
The key here is to keep the run game in check, force third down and try to get some pressure on a quarterback who folds like a cheap suit when under said pressure. When you’re making Hornibrook beat you and not the run game, you’re doing it right.
Out-Adjust the Badgers at Halftime
One of the most fascinating and least talked about aspects of this game seems to be the coaching matchup. It’s likely because Ohio State’s Urban Meyer loves a bit of the spotlight and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst isn’t a media darling. But, as far as head coaches go in the Big Ten, you’d be hard-pressed to find two more successful in-game coaches than these two.
All you need to do is look at how the Badgers go in to halftime and dominate opponents out of the break. That isn’t an accident, as Chryst and his coaching staff are masters at making the adjustments needed (however slight) and getting the players to execute well in the second half. UW is outscoring opponents 226 to 58 on the season.
Ohio State isn’t a slouch in that category either though, as the Buckeyes come in to this one scoring a whopping 216 points of their own in the second half of games this season. The only difference comes in Wisconsin’s defense totally dominating the second half on the scoreboard.
Those numbers are a testament to coaches making good moves at the half and putting players in the right spots to be successful. Which coach has the right adjustments and motivations at the half? The answer likely determines the winner on Saturday night.
Winning the Edge on Defense
Wisconsin has perhaps the best left-right tackle tandem in the country in 1st team all-B1G left tackle Michael Dieter and 2nd team selection David Edwards. Ohio State has three of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten though.
Something has to give.
As we’ve talked about already, fast starts and making Hornibrook beat you are keys to Ohio State’s success. Accomplishing those goals means winning the one-on-one battles at the edge of course.
It means setting the edge in the run game so that Taylor doesn’t have an outlet to break away from runs that were supposed to be going inside. It also means getting to and rattling Hornibrook, as that seems to be when he looses confidence and makes the majority of his mistakes.
That’s an easy concept to think of, but given the Badgers offensive line just put four of five starters on the All-Big Ten team it won’t be an easy task on the field. Wisconsin gave up the fewest sacks of any team in the Big Ten this season at 17.0, while Ohio State was just fifth in the Big Ten with 34.0 sacks as a team.
Win the Battle of the Freshmen
While we talked about one of the untold stories in this game already, there’s a second one few are talking about and that is the effect of freshmen on both the Buckeyes and Badgers this season.
If it wasn’t going to be Jonathan Taylor winning all the awards this season, it likely would’ve been Ohio State’s own star freshman running back, J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins has been no slouch himself, putting up the second most yards in the conference at 1,190 and also scoring seven touchdowns.
Dobbins is the home run hitter that the Badgers really haven’t seen at running back so far this season. Can he be the one to finally crack the code of a Badgers defense that has allowed just four teams, let alone players, go for over 100 yards? Or will Taylor win the day? If Dobbins is getting noticed in a good way it bodes well.
Then there’s the other position that will be telling — wide receiver. Wisconsin is without its star sophomore, Quintez Cephus, who was lost for the season earlier in the year after posting a great start. In his place has stepped a pair of freshmen in Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. Can the Buckeyes shut those guys down, especially on big downs where both have shined late in the season?
Davis and Pryor have combined for just 28 receptions so far this season, but Davis has had 11 of his 18 receptions in the last four games, while Pryor has posted five of his 10 in that same time frame. Ohio State’s secondary has come on well as the season has gone on for the most part. Can they continue that trend and make Wisconsin’s freshmen look like freshmen?
If Dobbins can win vs. Taylor and OSU’s secondary shut down UW’s freshmen wide receivers it would be huge on Saturday night.
Greg Schiano out at Ohio State, Michigan’s Mattison reportedly in
In terms of rivalries, there is no more intense in the Big Ten than Michigan an Ohio State. It’s one that lives on in the fans, players and coaches for 365 days a year.
On Jan. 7, 2019 things got a whole lot more interesting for the next 365 days that’s for sure.
First, news broke that defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will not be back with the Buckeyes under new head coach Ryan Day. Many believed this past season wasn’t up to par for the Buckeyes and Schiano seemed likely to take the fall for that.
OSU finished this season ranked 72nd in total defense after back-to-back seasons in the top 10 of that category nationwide. The Buckeyes gave up over 400 yards of total offense this year as well.
So, who will replace Schiano? In a really interesting twist, multiple reports have come out stating that Day has his replacement ready — in the form of Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison.
According to Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket, Mattison’s contact with Michigan was about to be up and that Harbaugh chose not to renew his deal.
Thus, he is a free agent and Day has chosen to scoop him up.
Mattison is very familiar with this rivalry, having served as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke (2011-2014) and then accepting just the defensive line coaching position on Jim Harbaugh’s staff.
His defenses were very consistent in his four seasons as defensive coordinator. Michigan was never worse than 31st in the country in total defense and peaked at No. 6 in his final season at the helm of the Wolverines defense.
Coaches plying their trade on both sides of the rivalry is nothing new, but it is a rarity overall.
BREAKING: Urban Meyer announces retirement
Last week, FootballScoop.com reported that Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer would be stepping down by the end of the 2019 season and likely by the end of this season.
They also reported that Ryan Day would take over as the new head coach once that happened.
After a weekend in which the rest of the media attempted to discredit the report, it is now exactly what is happening.
Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com broke the news early this morning. In the report, Lesmerises notes that Meyer is being forced to step down due to complications from a cyst on his brain.
The Rose Bowl game against Pac-12 champion Washington will be the final game he will coach at Ohio State.
Additionally, Ryan Day, who replaced Meyer as interim head coach while he was serving a three-game suspension to start the year will take over as the full-time head coach starting next season.
More information will be made available at a news conference scheduled for 2pm ET.
Meyer has had one of the most successful tenures as a head coach in Buckeyes history. He’ll retire having never lost to Michigan (7-0), won three Big Ten championships and with an 82-9 overall record at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith is the one who decided Day would get the job on a permanent basis, seeing what the Buckeyes did under his leadership in that three-game stint earlier this year and hoping to ride the wave of young coaches making big splashes.
His rise up the coaching ranks comes just as the Buckeyes are putting up some of the most dynamic numbers in the pass game that college football has ever seen.
Star quarterback Dwayne Haskins could potentially top the 5,000-yard and 50 touchdown marks in the upcoming Rose Bowl game.
Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer
Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?
We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.
Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps.
Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G
Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation
The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came.
According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well.
Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.
Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith.
Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015.
However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it.
Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations.
Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken.
That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation.
Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow.