Yikes. Not much else can describe the performance of the Wisconsin Badgers in the last two weeks. After suffering a back-breaking upset at the hands of Illinois, Bucky was shellacked by the Buckeyes in Columbus. There were bright spots. Wisconsin’s defense kept it close for two-plus quarters. The Badgers trailed just 10-7 with 12 minutes to go in the third quarter. However, after that, it was all downhill. The drizzle turned into a downpour, and the Buckeyes broke it open behind star tailback JK Dobbins. The junior totalled over 200 yards of offense with two touchdowns to go with it. Throughout the game it was apparent the Buckeyes were thoroughly dominating on both sides of the ball. Further exasperating this was the fact that Jonathon Taylor was held to just 52 yards rushing.
Wisconsin Over-matched vs Buckeyes
So what happened? Where did the balanced offense go? What happened to the offensive line? Where’s the vaunted run defense we saw for the first six games? This article aims to identify just what has gone wrong these past two weeks, in particularly in Columbus.
Rush Defense Has Holes
Over the last two weeks we have seen the major weakness of Wisconsin’s rush defense. The inability to stop the read option. Both Illinois and Ohio State gashed the Badgers with pure speed out of the read option. On top of making bad reads, the Wisconsin linebackers core outside of Zack Baun lacks the athleticism to keep up with both a mobile QB and a speedy running back in the read option game.
While the front seven still has played very well in rushing the passer, leaks in the faucet have formed in a once vaunted rush defense this season. Jim Leonhard must address these issues if Wisconsin wants to bounce back and get to the Big Ten Championship game.
Offensive Line Sets The Tempo
When things are flowing on offense, the offensive line is bursting off the ball and pushing up field. For the last three games, this burst seems to be lacking. In order for the Badgers to establish balance, they must first establish the run. Jonathon Taylor hasn’t rushed for 100 yards in two of the last three games after hitting the century mark for 12 straight games. When defenses stack the box and the line can’t get any push, the Badgers begin to lose any sort of rhythm they are attempting to establish. While this receiving core is talented and Jack Coan is certainly capable, this offense still makes its bread off of a punishing ground game.
As seen in the Ohio State game, teams with elite athleticism in the front seven will likely give the Badgers big bodies up front some trouble. Then again, there aren’t many front sevens that can match the Buckeye’s talent and depth.
In all, achieving balance is the goal for a successful and vibrant Wisconsin offense. The offensive lines ability to get going up front is the key that starts the car for each Badger drive.
College Football = Seclusive Society
As we’ve seen throughout the season, this Ohio State team is special.
Expecting Wisconsin to play a complete four quarters in Columbus was a very tall task. Realistically, the Buckeyes are better at just about every position on the field. There are maybe five teams in the country who can step into Columbus and keep it close. The talent disparity is large, and ultimately reared its ugly head in the second half on Saturday. College football is a seclusive society. Ten or so programs hoard most of the top talent in the country, why we see so little parody when it comes to college football playoff contenders. When we look at a program like Wisconsin, they’re built off of development of largely unheralded recruits. It works very well. However, when you have to face teams with elite athletic talent such as Ohio State, odds are that recipe won’t lead to much success.
A once promising season for this team still has plenty to play for. Goals such as regaining the Axe, and getting back to Indianapolis are still very much in play. However, the Paul Chryst and co must address issues on both sides of the ball first. Even if that happens, it is still clear there is a large gap in sheer talent separating the Badger’s from college football’s elite shelf.
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