What do you get when you combine Wisconsin and Ohio State? Besides fans that HATE each other, awesome tailgates, and a ton of trash talking - you also get really good football games. At least that's the case over the last decade or so. Since 1999 these two teams have played 11 games with the Buckeyes holding just a 6-5 record and the average margin of victory is just 11 points. It's pretty safe to say you'll see a close football game.
So, some could say this is the rubber match, especially considering the fact that Wisconsin had won just 12 games all-time going into that 1999 battle. But, even more than that you get a team that's already clinched a Big Ten Championship game appearance vs. a team that's undefeated and looking to win the only thing they can win - a division title.
Don't tell the two teams that take the field on Saturday that there isn't anything to play for because both sides are having none of it. But when it comes down to what happens on the field on Saturday, what are the biggest keys to victory? Well, here's a list of things we will be watching for:
1) Push Up Front: It's going to be huge for the Badgers to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball if they want to win on Senior Day. The defensive line must be active in the backfield against Braxton Miller or it's going to be a long day against one of the most dynamic playmakers the Badgers will see all season long. Offensively there's no question the running game needs to get going and in order for that to happen the Badgers need to get some good push against the Buckeye front four.
2) Record Breaker: Montee Ball will break not only the all-time FBS touchdown record with 2TD's on Saturday, but he'll also break Ron Dayne's all-time Big Ten rushing TD record. If Ball is able to accomplish this feat it's likely that the Badgers are on their way to at least hanging in this game, if not outright winning it.
3) Emotions: There is no question these two teams don't like each other much at all and for good reason with recent history and such, but there's also the emotion involved for the nine Seniors that will be saying goodbye to the Camp Randall faithful. Wisconsin must use that emotion early on, but they need to keep it in check as well and not make mistakes because of how they feel. Mistake free teams usually find ways to win football games - funny how that happens, huh?
4) Devin Smith vs. Devin Smith: Corey "Philly" Brown has been the one receiving the most catches this season, but the real matchup to watch is Smith vs. Smith. OSU's Devin Smith has 6 of the Buckeyes 16 TD's this season and is always a big play threat. UW's Devin Smith has been playing his best football over the past three weeks or so and if he can contain Smith from his big play ability it's just one more weapon the Buckeyes won't have.
5) The Edge: We talked about playing with emotion before, but playing on the edge - the edge of the field is going to be equally important against the spread attack that Ohio State employs. Wisconsin has really done a great job all season against teams trying to stretch the field toward the sidelines this season and that's as much a credit to David Gilbert and the rest of the D-Line as it is to Mike Taylor, Chris Borland, and Ethan Armstrong. If Wisconsin can continue that success against Miller and Co. it'll be a very long day for OSU as that's how they like to try and open things up for the passing game and for Carlos Hyde on the inside. Stop Miller from being successful on the edge and UW wins this one.