COLUMBUS - In five football games this season, the Ohio State defense has seen the triple option of Navy, the power and pro style attack of Southern California, the frenetic no-huddle spread offense of Toledo, the Illinois option with its running quarterback, and Indiana's unbalanced approach with three tight ends.
If the No. 9 Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0) thought they had covered everything on the menu, they should hold that thought.
Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0) is coming to town this weekend with its old-fashioned knock-down brand of football that has remained en vogue in Badger land while most of the world has resorted to other tactical approaches. It's meat and potatoes, but the Buckeyes haven't seen anyone serve that up, not yet.
"They haven't looked at same thing twice," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said about his defenders, who rank first in the Big Ten in overall defense, allowing just 252 yards per game.
"And now they're going to line up against Wisconsin … and you bet they're going to get you out of position if you're not focused in and pound it at you. So, to me it's a big, big challenge."
Ohio State has the Big Ten's best defense against the run, giving up only 83 yards per game. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in rushing the football, chewing up 217 yards per game. Something's got to give.
"They pose a great challenge with that offensive line that is huge and physical," Ohio State defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said about the Badgers. "But I like having that kind of offense coming at us, that kind of rushing attack. It's a little more in-your-face brand of football that we haven't really faced this season."
Tressel said Wisconsin has never been the kind of team that tries to beat you with trickery or sleight of hand or dinking the ball here and there. The Badgers line up, hand the ball off to tailback John Clay at 6-1 and 248 pounds, and beg you to try and stop him. Clay averages 5.2 yards per carry and more than 115 yards per game.
"They've been physical as long as I can remember and they continue to be so," Tressel said. "John Clay … it's hard to tackle him. We tried to recruit him and had him on campus and all the rest, he's a good back. He's tough. One guy is not going to stop him cold. He's at a good place that utilizes him well, and we've got to tackle him."
LARIMORE OUT: The Buckeyes will have to slow Wisconsin's power running game without the services of their top run-stopper, junior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, who sprained his knee in last Saturday's win at Indiana. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he expects Larimore to miss one or two weeks. Offensive lineman Jim Cordle is also expected to miss another couple of weeks as he continues to rehab an ankle injury that dates back to the Southern California game.
SHOO FLU: The battle with the flu bug continues in the Ohio State locker room. OSU coach Jim Tressel said yesterday that at least five or six players are coping with the flu, while others are in various stages of recovery. The offensive line appears the hardest hit, with Mike Adams, Mike Brewster and Andrew Miller all on the flu list.
"We're not the lone rangers - everyone around the country and the community have the same issues," Tressel said. "I don't think it's under control, because the problem is it's not under control with the general population."
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In five football games this season, the Ohio State defense has seen the triple option of Navy, the power and pro style attack of Southern California, the frenetic no-huddle spread offense of Toledo, the Illinois option with its running quarterback, and Indiana's unbalanced approach with three tight ends.