Wisconsin has undoubtedly tried to extract some lessons from its painful and shocking loss to Illinois last Saturday, but it is possible Ohio State can also use it as a teaching moment.
No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) was undefeated before a 24-23 loss to Illinois that dropped the Badgers seven spots in this week’s Associated Press college football rankings.
That leaves Ohio State, Penn State and Minnesota as the three remaining undefeated teams in the Big Ten going into the Buckeyes’ game against Wisconsin on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
To get to the goals they want the No. 3 Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will need to avoid surprises and remain unbeaten. So OSU coach Ryan Day emphasized the importance of playing well every game at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
“I think our staff has done a good job week in and week out of talking to the guys about how important it is to come every week,” Day said.
“You’re only as good as your last game. We have to keep that going. I think up to this point we’ve been playing with energy, but that goes to how we have been practicing. We know how good they are on both sides of the ball, all three phases. They got great players on both sides of the ball, NFL players.
“Last week is what it is. This is college football. You have to bring it every week. It’s the same thing with us. We have to bring it this week. It’s going to be our best game of the year, our biggest challenge on both sides of the ball. We have to prepare better than we have all year,” he said.
“We know this is a good team. I mean, they played against teams we played against. You can compare the competition. They’ve done a really good job.”
Ohio State and Wisconsin both come into Saturday’s game with some lofty national rankings.
Wisconsin is ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (7.6 points a game) and OSU is second (8.0).
Ohio State is No. 1 nationally in margin of victory (40.5 points a game) and Wisconsin is second (37.7).
Wisconsin is first in total defense (193.9 yards a game) and Ohio State is second (228.0).
Ohio State is third nationally in scoring (49.7 points a game) and total offense (526.7 yards a game).
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor leads the Big Ten in rushing with 957 yards and is third nationally. Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins is second in the Big Ten and fourth nationally with 947 yards.
Some other thoughts from Day:
TEAGUE EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS: Ohio State’s No. 2 running back Master Teague, is fifth in the Big Ten in rushing with 512 yards.
Day admitted that when Teague battled injuries in the spring and preseason practice, the expectations for him probably weren’t that high.
:”We didn’t have a lot of expectations other than getting him healthy and seeing what he could do. He is a good change of pace. He’s done a good job of when he goes in there running with his pads down. When he gets in the open field, he’s done a good job of pulling away,” Day said.
“He put a lot of work in with Tony(running backs coach Tony Alford), understanding the different schemes, where to hit this thing. Last year at this time didn’t really see some of those hits. He’s doing a good job with his footwork, seeing the holes, hitting the hole. He’s done a great job.”
`GRITTY’ EFFORT BY MUNFORD: Nicholas Petit-Frere started in place of left tackle Thayer Munford in OSU’s 52-3 win at Northwestern last Friday night because of a lingering knee problem for Munford.
But Munford got into the game in the second quarter and played well.
“It was gritty, tough. Thayer played for his teammates, which goes to show you what kind of kid he is. Great kid, unselfish. I think the day off was great for him. He’s feeling good. Should be ready to go this week,” Day said.
Day also praised the work Petit-Frere did in his first college start.
“That’s pretty amazing that we can put our fourth tackle in the game against Northwestern, against a pretty good front right there and still kind of hang in there. He didn’t have a perfect game, didn’t grade a champion. He was competing the best he could. Thayer supplemented him in the second quarter, which was great. It was good to see Nick step up,” he said.
BIG GUY MAKES AN IMPRESSION: Freshman offensive lineman Dawand Jones, who is 6-8 and 360 pounds, created a huge hole that Teague ran through for a 73-yard touchdown against Northwestern.
Jones might get on the field more the second half of the season. Playing more than the four games that would allow him to call this year a redshirt season seems likely.
“He’ll probably go more than four just because he is very talented. We want to get him in some of these games when we can. His ceiling is very high. We want his development to continue,” Day said.
“I really think it’s important for these guys to play. Again, we won’t be foolish with this and waste the year. At the same time the more these guys can play, I think you saw that in the first quarter, on both sides of the ball, guys were into it, we were playing hard, competing.
“We’re going to play him, if it makes sense. We also don’t want to be foolish.”