Wisconsin is good on defense. Really good. How good? Here are some of the statistical categories in which they are the top team in the country: scoring defense (7.6 points per game), rushing defense (58.43 yards per game), passing defense (135.4 yards per game), total defense (193.9 yards per game), 3rd down defense (opponents convert just 16.13 percent of their 3rd downs), and stop rate (89.8 percent of their opponent's drives end in punts, turnovers, or a turnover on downs).
There are naturally a whole bunch of other categories in which they are in the top ten, such as points per possession (2nd), fumbles forced (3rd), passes defended (6th), and sacks (8th).
They have four shutouts, and the Wisconsin defense is a big part of the reason the team has never trailed in a game while there was still time on the clock.
However, when time had expired against Illinois, the shocked Badgers were looking up at a 24-23 scoreboard in favor of the Fighting Illini, the best offense they had faced that season, ranked 64th with 29.7 points per game. A last-second field goal had resulted in one of the upsets of the year.
Saturday, it's a battle against Ohio State, a team that has scored more points in the first half of games (231) than 111 teams have scored the entire season.
Naturally, Wisconsin is going to want to keep the ball out of the Buckeyes hands, and here again, the Badgers have dominated.
They have actually kept the ball nearly 16 minutes more than the second place team in terms of time of possession. They have even held the ball longer than Central Michigan, SMU, Florida, Washington, and Western Michigan, all in the top ten of time of possession...despite the fact that they have played one fewer game than those teams.
Of course, you probably know that's due largely to running back Jonathan Taylor, the player with the FBS records for rushing yards by a freshman and sophomore, and who is now enjoying a stellar junior season.
"When we saw him two years ago in the Big Ten Championship," said OSU linebacker Tuf Borland, "he was kind of a first and second down guy; but now he's bettered his game in all aspects, all the way through third down, blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield, so he's a great player."
That conference title game, by the way, was the worst performance of Taylor's career. He totaled just 41 yards.
Another way in which the Buckeyes have been uniquely successful against the Badgers is that they are the only team to hand Paul Chryst a second consecutive loss. He's 11-1 when looking to rebound, and that single defeat was the 2016 overtime game that the Buckeyes won 30-23.
"We just barely beat them," defensive lineman Robert Landers said of that contest. "They're always going to play hard. It's one of those games where, if you don't bring your A-game and you don't put your big-boy pants on, it could be a rough day."
Ohio State faces Wisconsin at noon. Pregame on 610 WTVN begins at 9:00 a.m.
Other Wisconsin nuggets:
- Jonathan Taylor (5,128 yards) is one of only four players to reach 5,000 rushing yards before the end of his junior season, and he did it in fewer carries (736) than any of the other three: Oregon's LaMichael James (755), Wisconsin's Ron Dayne (843), and Georgia's Herschel Walker (973).
- Taylor is also just 13 yards shy of passing Monte Ball to be Wisconsin's second all-time leading rusher. Ron Dayne owns the school's top mark.
- Although he had not caught a touchdown pass before this year, Taylor now leads the team with four such catches. He's ahead of receiver Quintez Cephus (3) and tight end Jake Ferguson (2), the only other Badgers with touchdown receptions.
- Jack Coan is 8-3 as Wisconsin's starting quarterback, is completing 76 percent of his passes, and has thrown just two picks.
- Linebacker Jack Sanborn leads the Badgers in tackles with 40, and linebacker Zack Baun leads them in tackles for loss with 11.0. The fact that linebackers are leading the way for Wisconsin is not surprising given the team's history and their 3-4 defensive scheme.
- Five of the last six games in this series have been decided by 7 points or fewer, and two have gone to overtime.