While the Ohio State football team has lost a Heisman Trophy candidate to injury, it must prepare to take on another candidate in the biggest game of the year.
Redshirt-junior Wisconsin running back and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Melvin Gordon is on many people’s shortlist for the Heisman, as he leads the country in rushing yards with 2,260 to go along with 26 rushing scores.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said that while he doesn’t know much about Gordon, he has heard nothing but good things about the Badger running back on and off the field.
“Obviously we understand there is another Heisman guy going to be on the field, Gordon, who (Wisconsin coach) Gary (Andersen) tells me the best thing about him is he’s a wonderful young man, too,” Meyer said Monday. “So that’s good for college football.”
OSU co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said gearing up to stop Gordon will not be an easy task.
“This is as good a running back they have had, and they have had some great ones,” Fickell said Monday. “Montee Ball, James White and heck, go all the way back to Ron Dayne. I don’t know that they’ve had one as electric as Gordon. Most importantly, you can’t let him get going. We have seen, you get some of those guys going, it’s hard to get them down.”
Those guys Fickell talked about include junior Indiana running back Tevin Coleman and senior Minnesota running back David Cobb who combined to rush for 373 yards and six touchdowns against the Buckeyes this season.
In one game this season, Gordon managed to rush for 408 yards in a win over Nebraska, which at the time broke the NCAA record for rushing yards in a single game.
Despite all his success, Gordon said there is something he has yet to accomplish in his time at Wisconsin that he is hoping to achieve on Saturday.
“Since I have been at Wisconsin, I haven’t had a chance to beat Ohio State yet,” Gordon said during the Big Ten players teleconference Monday. “It’s a tough team to go up against and it would be good to have my first win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship.”
Gordon, who first played for the Badgers as a redshirt-freshman in 2011, exploded onto the national scene during the 2012 Big Ten title game when he rushed for a game-high 216 yards on just nine carries, outrushing both Ball and White.
While he was successful in that game, Gordon said his eyes are on the task at hand.
“We can’t think about that game because it’s not Nebraska, it’s Ohio State,” Gordon said. “It’s a different team, different players, different coaching staff, we got to think about this game because it’s completely different.”
Gordon added that he has watched the Buckeyes on multiple occasions, and complimented the OSU defense’s style of play.
“I follow Ohio State … they are one of the best teams in the nation. They love to play physical, they don’t shy away from contact,” Gordon said. “The linebackers, they speak for themselves. They always have great linebackers there.”
The man who coaches the OSU linebackers, Fickell, said the Buckeyes must not only focus on Gordon, but other aspects of the Badger offense.
“The thing that they still do is they are not just one-dimensional. You still got to know that the most important thing, they are going to rely on him,” Fickell said. “They are going to run the football. He can be one of those guys that beats you. They are good enough up front to be able to give him the opportunity to do those things. It poses a lot of problems.”
In last year’s matchup in Columbus, Gordon was bottled up for just 74 yards rushing on 15 carries and was held without a touchdown.
The Buckeyes did, however, give up 295 yards passing to now-redshirt-junior Joel Stave, who has yet to throw for more that 220 yards this season.
The Buckeyes and Badgers are set to square off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis at 8:17 p.m. on Saturday.