After a statement-making victory over a previously undefeated Top 10 opponent, No. 3 Ohio State will look to avoid a letdown in Saturday night’s Big Ten clash with Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.
Ohio State (7-0, 4-0) is fresh off a 20-12 win at home against then-No. 7 Penn State, which dropped to 10th in the rankings. The Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten East, a half-game behind Michigan, the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.
Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) overcame a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun Illinois 25-21 behind redshirt freshman quarterback Braedyn Locke, who was making his first collegiate start.
The Badgers moved back atop the Big Ten West, a half-game in front of Iowa, which lost at Minnesota.
“We talked about it on Sunday as a team, that we’ve got to bring it this week,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Tuesday about Wisconsin. “They’re playing well, they’re a good football team, they’ve got a really good opportunity to win their side. And we can’t let last week affect this week.”
Ohio State limited Penn State to two field goals until a touchdown in the final minute. The Buckeyes’ defense held the Nittany Lions to 240 total yards, including 49 on the ground.
“They were 1-for-16 on third down and 1-for-3 on fourth down, so 2-for-19 on third and fourth down is tremendous,” Day said after the Penn State game. “If we could play like this, then this is that champion-level defense, and if we grow as a team, we will be tough to beat down the road.”
First-year starter Kyle McCord completed 22 of 35 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown. Marvin Harrison Jr. had a career-high 11 receptions for 162 yards and a TD and was named the conference’s co-Offensive Player of the Week.
The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in the country in total defense at 260.1 yards per game, and third in scoring defense at 10 points per game.
First-year Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell played for the Buckeyes, then coached at Ohio State from 2002 through 2016, including the 2011 season as interim head coach.
“The first thing, to start off with is, it’s not about me,” Fickell said Monday. “We have some guys on our staff, myself included, who have some obvious history there, whether they went to school there or played there. But that’s not what it’s about.”
“It’s about the players, it’s about our team, it’s about our program,” he said.
Locke started against Illinois in place of injured Tanner Mordecai, who broke his throwing hand the previous week in a loss to Iowa.
Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns vs. Illinois, including the game-winning 3-yard toss to offensive lineman Nolan Rucci with 27 seconds remaining. Braelon Allen ran for 145 yards on 29 carries with one score.
Ohio State has won nine straight games against Wisconsin since the Badgers’ last victory, 31-18 in 2010 over the then-No. 1 Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin 52-21 last season, rolling up 539 yards offense while holding the Badgers to 296. Allen ran for 165 yards on 23 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown.