1. Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin running game.
Somehow, the Wisconsin Badgers continue to find talented running backs. Not even a year after the departure of the NCAA’s all-time career rushing touchdown leader Montee Ball, the Badgers haven’t missed a beat. Redshirt-sophomore Melvin Gordon and senior James White are first and 10th in rushing yards in the nation, respectively, and will look to test a young Buckeye front seven. Junior linerbacker Ryan Shazier should help to plug some holes in the middle of the field, but Gordon will keep the entire defense on their toes throughout the game. In the end, it could come down to which team controls its opponent’s rushing game more — the Badgers are first, and the Buckeyes are second in the country in rushing yards.
2. How often will Kenny Guiton see the field?
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has made it clear that junior quarterback Braxton Miller will be the starter if he is healthy enough to play. As that time approaches — Miller is 90 percent back, Meyer told the media Wednesday — it still remains in the dark how much time redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton will play. Stepping in for Miller, Guiton has thrown for 664 yards and 13 touchdowns and broken two different school records. It may be a struggle for Guiton to see the field despite his success due to Miller’s return. Meyer has said before he wants to find a way for both quarterbacks to see the field, but isn’t sure how much the game will allow it. If the game remains close, don’t be surprised if Guiton is relegated to a position on the bench.
3. Can the Buckeyes handle the step up in competition?
No disrespect to Buffalo, San Diego State, Florida A&M and California, but Wisconsin is the best team the Buckeyes will have played so far this season. California pushed OSU in week three but still ended up losing by 18 points to Meyer’s squad. However, the Badgers are a completely different story. Unlike the Golden Bears, Wisconsin is a complete team — the Badgers are in the top 25 in both scoring offense and defense this season and have won by an average of 41.3 points in their three victories in 2013. The only blemish on their record so far is a two-point loss to Arizona State on a controversial call that could have potentially swung the game in the other direction. If Wisconsin can continue its high level of play, it will be tough for OSU to dominate like it has in its four contests so far this season.
4. Is the OSU front defensive front line ready for Big Ten football?
It is no secret that Meyer is a bit uneasy about the depth on the defensive front for the Buckeyes. Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Monday the defensive coaches “are still developing and have got some depth issues,” even after the nonconference season. Meyer has said the defensive line is still inexperienced, but he is looking forward to getting sophomore Adolphus Washington back against the Badgers from a groin injury. However, Wisconsin sports an offensive line that averages 6 feet 6 inches and 322 pounds in size and will be looking to wear down the Buckeyes. If they are able to dominate the time of possession, Fickell and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel will need to keep their guys rotating in order to keep them fresh. Saturday’s game will be won or lost in the trenches, so how OSU can handle that will be important.
5. Saturday Night Lights
All week, players like redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby and redshirt-senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort have been talking about how great the atmosphere at Ohio Stadium is going to be under the lights Saturday night. Roby even went as far as to say it is “electric” due to “everyone (having) all day to get drunk.” Although that might be the case, OSU must be able to handle its emotions early in the game in order to not give up any big plays. The Badgers should be amped up as well, but OSU freshmen like running back Dontre Wilson and defensive lineman Joey Bosa must show their maturity if the Buckeyes look to send Wisconsin back to Madison unhappy.