Opposition Q&A: The Ohio State Edition

(UPDATE: We returned the favor by answering the questions of The Buckeye Battle Cry here.)

We all know these two schools, football teams, and fan bases don't like each other much, right? Luckily we were able to stomach actually talking to a Luckeye or two this week as we give you the thoughts of our opposition once again in our famous "Opposition Q&A."

Talking with us this week was "MaliBuckeye" from a great Buckeyes site, The Buckeye Battle Cry, Thanks to MaliBuckeye and the staff over there as they've been good friends to us over the past two seasons and a great resource of Buckeye information.

So, let's just dive right in to what tBBC had to say and what we should be watching for Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall. 

MTB: Etienne Sabino is expected to start at LB this weekend, how does he impact the defense & what does that mean for this matchup?

tBBC: To be honest, he makes a strong matchup even better for the Buckeyes. It's been a season of transition for Ohio State's defense, and they've been gashed at times by teams who spread the ball around via multi-receiver formations and offensive philosophy… and, with injuries, the linebacking corps have been at the center of that issue.

However, the Buckeyes have done a solid job against teams looking to run first (Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State), so there's something about the scheme that Ohio State is playing which seems to be more geared to stop that style. If you take that element and add back into it a multi-year starter, you've got to be optimistic about the greater impact this will have on the defense… particularly in terms of leadership and focus.

MTB: Some think this team is all about Braxton Miller, yet Carlos Hyde is also having a sneak good season and is scoring a ton of TD's. What's his game like and how does one stop Hyde?

tBBC: Carlos Hyde is a sneaky type of running back; to be honest, his style would fit in nicely with Wisconsin's philosophy. He's powerful, and makes a nice counterpunch to Braxton's speed and elusiveness, and doesn't typically go down upon first contact- in fact, he seems to relish it as the game goes on. But, he's also the fastest of the current running backs, at least in terms of 40 times, so his straight-line speed can be tough to get a read on.

Don't forget that there's another developing back in the mix as well- Rod Smith has really come on lately, and has the ability to make trouble for people in the open field. Those of us who see everything through scarlet and gray glasses tend to compare him to Eddie George… although that could be for his struggles with "fumbleitis".

MTB: At this time of year there seems to be a lot of injuries all over college football, but it seems as though there's been a crazy amount to the OSU defense, are you worried about depth against the Badgers run game?

tBBC: Nope, I'm worried about depth against EVERY team, not just Wisconsin. Ohio State has gotten some great production from it's young guns on defense, particularly the defensive line (which might be able to go 8 deep at times), but injuries have taken their toll on the safeties and linebackers. Coming off of a bye week will certainly help ensure that Wisconsin gets the Buckeyes "best efforts".

MTB: How do you see this "rivalry" between Wisconsin and Ohio State?

tBBC: It all starts with Barry Alvarez, in my mind, who developed the Badgers into a powerful contender for the conference title and national prestige during my lifetime. I still remember Ron Dayne running and running and running… and the offense seems to have become a "plug and play" constant, with the continuation of Wisconsin's legacy of great backs and offensive linemen. Add to that the "fan experience" in Madison, and the thoughts of Buckeye Nation are certainly focused when this game week comes around. Heck, even the basketball matchups are "must watch" events between these two schools.

There have been lots of heartache on both sides of the stadium- numerous "dream" seasons for OSU spoiled by the Badgers, Amazing Wisconsin teams defeated by Ohio State- I think it's safe to say that we're pretty comfortable having you as the intra-divisional rival we love to hate. It will be interesting to see how that continues with our new coaching staff- if they really understand the history of this great matchup.

MTB: No. 1 & 2 D's vs. No. 1 & 2 offenses (in conference play), so what gives on Saturday? Your prediction?

tBBC: I really think passing will be the key- If Wisconsin finds success with their play action game, it will be a long day for Ohio State. Conversely, if the Braxton Miller who was tossing the pill against Illinois shows up in Madison, there may not be much that the Badgers can do to avoid the loss.

It's interesting that everyone is picking Wisconsin to win- Vegas has them on top, the "video game simulations that don't use real players but really use real players" do as well. I think it will be a tough, hard fought game- Will Wisconsin keep their focus on Senior Day with Ball looking to break national records, or did winning a berth to Indy change that? Does OSU find a way to keep their momentum after the break, given that they start slow every game this year, and does being the underdog impact their motivation?

My prediction? Big Ten Football… the way God and St. Woody intended it. 

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Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com