Wednesday, September 25, 2013

GAME PREVIEW: WILL THE BUCKS, BADGERS BE ANOTHER CLASSIC?

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COLUMBUS — Through the first four games of the 2013 college football season, Ohio State (4-0) has outscored its opponents by an average of 38 points per contest — their closest margin being a three-touchdown victory in the opener against Buffalo.

This Saturday night in Columbus, the No. 4 Buckeyes host No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1), a team which Ohio State has beaten in two consecutive seasons, but has had to do so in the waning moments of each game.

Urban Meyer — who is 16-0 as the Buckeyes' head coach — believes that Saturday's showdown with the Badgers will be another humdinger of a game.

"I think this will be a classic game," Meyer said Monday, during his weekly press luncheon in Columbus. "You know the preparation has got to be, cross all the T's, dot all the I's.

"Certainly I've been in those kind of rivalry games or games where you know it is going to come down to one or two series to win this game. I think our veterans understand that."

Although the Buckeyes are coming off a 76-0 rout of Florida A&M — the largest shutout win for Ohio State since 1934 — the competition they faced is light years behind the unit they will line up against on Saturday night.

Meyer said he'd be concerned about that fact if it weren't for the way his team prepares so diligently during the week. The way they go after each other on the practice field in preparation of game day.

"I'd like to think that our guys get prepared for those kind of situations with the way we practice on Tuesdays," Meyer said. "Tuesdays are every bit as hard or harder than some game days. So that's kind of the way we do our business around here.

"That is a concern, though"

One of the Buckeyes greatest concerns going into the tilt with Wisconsin is the sharpness of junior quarterback Braxton Miller, who will back under center after missing the past three games with a knee injury.

"Braxton, I imagine, will be (a little rusty)," Meyer said. "Any great player, any player is going to have a little bit of rust. That's what I was hoping to get out of the way last week. So I'm going to practice him real hard this week.

"Braxton is 13-0 as a starter (in current regime's system). He has done very well."

Of course, another player who has done "very well" is senior backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who in two starts in relief of Miller has thrown for 10 touchdowns — including a school-record six last week — and has guided the Buckeyes to 128 points and more than 1,200 yards of offense in those two contests.

"Kenny Guiton is the guy to me that has shown he can go win, and I didn't know that," Meyer said. "Even last year against Purdue, he came in and he won, but I just didn't see it in practice enough. I'm one of those guys, I don't believe in gamers. That word doesn't exist here. It's a practicer, is what we call them. And I just didn't see it."

Well, Meyer sees it now, and although he has stated that Miller is his starter, Guiton has at least made the decision a difficult one.

"I just love both of those players," Meyer said of Miller and Guiton. "If Kenny was a better wide receiver than one of our receivers, he would be playing receiver; if Braxton was a better running back or something ... but they are not.

"So someone has to come off the field."

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the Badgers don't have to sideline any of their weapons, as the three-headed backfield monster of Melvin Gordon (the nation's leading rusher), James White and Corey Clement will surely see many minutes come Saturday night.

The trio has given the Badgers the top rushing attack in the FBS (1,399 yards), and can do so with explosiveness, as each of the three have scored on touchdown runs of 70-plus yards.

Bottom Line

Sure, the Badgers do possess the top rushing attack in the nation. However, the Buckeyes are right behind them at No. 2. Let's face it, both teams can tote the rock.

The difference between the two squads will be at quarterback. Whether it's Miller or Guiton, the Badgers can't match the Buckeyes in that phase of the game. The Buckeyes can spread the field with more weapons, and have the ability to put the ball across the chalk in plethora of ways.

The fast-paced Meyer offense is hitting on all cylinders in his second season in Columbus, and I just can't see the one-dimensional Badgers being able to match blows for an entire 60 minutes of football.

Lee's prediction: OSU 49-30