MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin offense will be looking to be anything but predictable on Saturday.
“Especially this last week, coach has put in more plays, so really shaken up the offense and made it more multi-dimensional,” starting running back Corey Clement said.
After years of relying on the run game, it seems Wisconsin has found a reliable arm to make the offense more balanced.
In the last two games against Michigan State and Michigan, Wisconsin has only been able to muster 122 yards rushing in a blowout against Michigan State and 71 yards in a one score loss to Michigan. To help the new found passing game, Wisconsin will have to find their rushing attack.
Clement, who is only averaging about 80 rushing yards per game, sees patience as a problem holding himself back.
“For me personally, just being more patient. I thought I was being patient enough but I think I have to slow it down just a tad more and just let it come to me.”
In the trenches on the front line, pad level and reacting better to the defenses movements are key to improving the offense for Wisconsin. And that takes all 11 guys.
“It’s just coming together as an offensive line and not only as an offensive line but as a whole offense. And just making sure that everybody is doing their jobs no matter how small it is,” starting right guard Beau Benzschawel said.
Trying to stop the rush attack from developing will be Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker. The sophomore took over when Dante Booker went down with a knee injury. Since then, Baker has been a force.
On the season, Baker has 26 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks and tacked on a 68-yard pick-six. Baker and the linebacking crew of Raekwon McMillan and Chris Worley have been huge reasons why Ohio State has yet to allow a rushing score in 2016.
Up front, Wisconsin’s offensive line will be looking to exploit some of the younger, inexperienced players on the Ohio State defense.
“I think Ohio State’s guys are a little bit younger maybe a little bit greener. They’re just different guys and I think they play to their strengths which obviously you got to,” Benzschawel said. “I just think it’s a totally different team and I think the way we’ve been preparing is really going to help us out.”
One way the run game will be able to open up will be by getting the passing game going. In the game against Michigan though, Alex Hornibrook struggled to find a rhythm.
“I feel like I’ve been able to get open on routes and things like that but I feel like it’s more so just executing the routes, making sure we’re catching the ball, making sure we’re in the right places at the right time,” junior wide out Jazz Peavy said.
Peavy leads the receiver group with 17 receptions, 281 yards and two touchdowns. It’s going to take Peavy and the rest of the wideouts to help open up the run game.
“I feel like it’s the laws of football. If one’s working then they got to try and stop it and that should only open up the other one,” Peavy said.
On Ohio State’s defense, junior defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis will be leading the charge to the quarterback. So far in 2016, Lewis leads Ohio State with three sacks with Joey Bosa’s younger brother Nick Bosa not far behind with two sacks.
In the secondary, Peavy and the receivers expect a similar battle as the one in Ann Arbor a couple weeks ago.
“I feel like they got a lot of technique just how Michigan was playing, kind of that mid technique. Not too physical but they’ll run with you and they can hang with you,” Peavy said.
Sophomore safety Malik Hooker has been an absolute ball hawk through five games. Hooker has picked off opposing quarterbacks four times for 117 yards and has brought one of those back to the house for Ohio State.
Despite being a prime time matchup under the lights, Wisconsin is focused on rising to the challenge.