We have already seen this matchup earlier in the season.
Chase Young was dominant with six tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles and on the offensive end the Wisconsin defense had no answer for JK Dobbins who torched them for 163 yards and two touchdowns on the ground along with 58 receiving yards to add.
For Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor could not get anything going. He only ran for 52 yards on 20 carries while Jack Coan only threw for 108 yards and a defense that was dominant the first six weeks of the season broke down in the second after holding up against the stout Buckeyes offense.
On October 26th, the 6-1 Badgers met the undefeated Buckeyes in Columbus. Wisconsin had been coming off of a stunning upset to the Fighting Illini after starting off the year incredibly hot while Ohio State continued their dominance over the rest of the country.
Now six weeks later, Wisconsin and Ohio State square off again, but this time in Indianapolis and with a Big Ten championship on the line. For Ohio State, their spot in the college football playoff is essentially secured while the Badgers look to secure a spot in the Rose Bowl.
“Win in November. If you want to be relevant at the end of the season, you have to win in November so we just took it one week at a time and we’ve done alright so far,” junior running back Garrett Groshek said.
Wisconsin sure has done alright for themselves. After dropping consecutive games to close out October, UW sat two games out of first place in the West and needed to win their last four games to secure a trip and they have done just that.
Just about everyone has counted the Badgers out for the rematch of the 2017 Big Ten championship game but they are an improved team from the last time they met Ohio State.
Their offense has expanded to include ways to get the ball in the hands of their dynamic receivers on jet sweeps and out of the wildcat. Members of the defense have noticed an improvement in their unit as well, citing improved alignments and sound technique.
The Badgers are carrying the momentum of a four-game win streak and coming off reclaiming the Axe into the Big Ten title game but one has to wonder whether it is enough to close the 31 point gap that Ohio State had beaten the Badgers by in their first meeting. As defensive coordinator, Jim Leonhard put it, “it’s a good thing we start 0-0.”
The biggest tasks for Wisconsin will be to slow down defensive juggernaut Chase Young and running back JK Dobbins.
Young has had seven sacks and three forced fumbles in his last three games while JK Dobbins has carried the ball 37 times for 337 yards and two touchdowns in his two meetings against the Badgers.
Ohio State will have a hobbled Justin Fields in the matchup which will make it important for the Badgers to get after Fields and force him to make some plays and not allow the Buckeyes to simply ride the legs of Dobbins.
The coaching staff and players noted the challenge of playing a team for a second time in the season. Wisconsin gets to look back at what Ohio State did so well and how they can combat that or change things up but the Buckeyes get the same film and will have already seen some of what the Badgers like to do on both sides of the ball.
“I don’t know if it’s any easier with this group, they look the same,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “Pretty damn good.”
Wisconsin comes in as 15.5 point underdogs but an improved Badgers squad will be motivated much like they were against the Gophers a week ago. The slimmest of chances are still there for the Badgers but it all begins by defeating the number one team in the nation for a Big Ten title.