Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Madison, Wisconsin. The Buckeyes won their first game on NBC4, 17-14 over Notre Dame on Sept. 23, and after this weekend, they’ll next appear at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 for a game against Michigan State.
But the challenge this week is the Badgers (5-2, 3-1), who lead the Big Ten West and are coming off a come-from-behind win over Illinois in which their backup quarterback threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
Here are three things to know about the game.
Will Marvin Harrison Jr.’s star continue to rise?
Opponents have come up with different ways to try to limit Marvin Harrison Jr. The Badgers’ approach might be twofold.
Harrison leads the Big Ten in receiving yards per game at 109.4, and he’s second in receptions with 42. Last week against Penn State, the Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten East) could finally exhale when they took a 20-6 lead in the fourth quarter after Harrison scored on an 18-yard pass from Kyle McCord.
That touchdown ended a six-play drive where Ohio State targeted Harrison one other time, for an 11-yard gain.
“It takes a lot of work by Marv to make sure that we’re trying to maximize him as a player and give him the opportunities to win in man-to-man,” coach Ryan Day said. “If you just leave him in one spot all the time, it makes things a lot easier for the defense to key in on him.”
The Badgers give up 196 passing yards per game — way fewer than the 286 that the Buckeyes gained against the Nittany Lions — and they boast two standouts in the secondary. Cornerback Ricardo Hallman leads the Big Ten in interceptions with four, including one that he returned 95 yards for a touchdown against Rutgers, and safety Hunter Wohler is second in the league with 70 tackles.
Limiting the passing game could help the Badgers since balance has been elusive for the Buckeyes, who average 304.9 passing yards compared with 127 rushing yards.
“The more efficient we can be in other areas, the less pressure it puts on Marv,” Day said. “I know we have to do a better job of taking pressure off of him. But at the same time, we’re going to try to find as many ways we get them the ball.”
Can Ohio State make the ‘Jump Around’ crowd sit down?
The Buckeyes are riding high with their No. 3 ranking in the polls and a win over the Nittany Lions that marked their second of the season over a ranked team. But things may be starting to come together for the Badgers under first-year coach Luke Fickell.
A 25-21 win last week at Illinois was decided with 27 seconds left on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Nolan Rucci, an offensive lineman, from Braedyn Locke, who was making his first start. It capped an 18-point fourth quarter.
“To me, more exciting than the win itself was to see how our guys handled it, how they came back, and to show that will, and that passion,” Fickell said. “I needed to see that from us.”
Locke was 21-of-41 passing for 240 yards with two touchdowns, replacing Tanner Mordecai, who’s recovering from a broken hand. As for the target being Rucci, who’s 6 feet 8 and 300 pounds, it was a play the Badgers had been running at practice.
The Badgers get to come home for what is almost certainly their biggest game of the season at Camp Randall Stadium. Fickell knows the crowded will be amped up, and he said it’ll be up to the team to keep those fans excited well past the “Jump Around” tradition between the third and fourth quarters.
“We know that it’ll be an electric environment and atmosphere,” Fickell said. “We’ve got to do our part to make it sustainable throughout the entire game.”
Who from Columbus plays for Wisconsin?
Let’s start at the top: Fickell is a Columbus native.
He played at and graduated from DeSales High School before being a four-year starter at nose guard for the Buckeyes from 1992 to ’96. He came back as a defensive assistant in 2005 and served as head coach during the 2011 season, going 6-6 in what became a gap year between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. Fickell remained on staff as an assistant through 2016.
He left Columbus to coach the University of Cincinnati, going 57-18 in six seasons and leading the Bearcats to three straight 11-win seasons.
Here is who’s on the roster with roots in central Ohio:
- Joe Huber: An offensive lineman from Dublin Jerome, Huber followed Fickell by transferring from Cincinnati. Last season, he started all 12 games at right tackle. This season, the junior is the Badgers’ starting left guard.
- Rodas Johnson: A senior defensive end from DeSales, Johnson made six tackles last week against Illinois.
- Isaiah Mullens: A defensive end from Harvest Prep, Mullens has yet to appear in a game this season, his final, as a graduate student.
- Manny Mullens: A sophomore defensive end from Harvest Prep, he transferred from Division II Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, to join his older brother, Isaiah.
- Jack Pugh: A sophomore tight end from Hilliard Bradley, Pugh appeared in one game last season.