No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0) has to be among the most disrespected undefeated teams in recent memory. The Badgers have beaten ranked teams in each of the last two weeks and have won nine of 11 games by double digits. Nevertheless, many college football fanatics doubt whether Wisconsin is elite.
Well, we’ll get a definitive answer Saturday, Dec. 2, when the Badgers play No. 9 Ohio State (9-2) for the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“I’m sure they believe they are good enough to be in the College Football Playoff, but they get a chance to prove it,” Fox Sports college football analyst A.J. Hawk said on Gio and Jones, referring to the Badgers. “If they beat Ohio State, we know there’s no real controversy. They’re going to be in.”
But can Wisconsin beat Ohio State? That is the question.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” said Hawk, a two-time All-American linebacker at Ohio State. “It depends on who shows up for sure on Ohio State’s side of the ball. We don’t know exactly week-to-week what you’re getting when you watch Ohio State play. If it’s the Ohio State that we saw in the fourth quarter against Penn State, then I like Ohio State. But if it’s the Ohio State team that showed up to play Iowa, I’m not sure. That’s going to be a rough one for them. It’s going to be a battle.”
The Buckeyes have had an uneven season. They’ve looked unbeatable one week, and they’ve looked like they’ve never played football the next.
One thing that’s certain: the game will be won in the trenches. Wisconsin plays smash-mouth football, and Ohio State has rushed for 660 yards and eight touchdowns – in just two games – since losing to Iowa.
“This is a true Big Ten test, there’s no question, especially how this Wisconsin team is old-school,” Hawk said. “They’ve never changed. That’s what I do respect about them. They’ve never tried to go to the spread offense. They’ve never tried to really try any of the newish (trends). They just stick to what works, and they’re playing some great football.”
Wisconsin’s defense has also been stout. The Badgers are allowing 246 yards and 13.1 points per game. They rank second nationally in both categories behind Alabama (244 and 10.2, respectively).
Just how good is this Wisconsin D?
“To really judge them, you have to kind of see them multiple games against elite teams,” Hawk said. “We’ll see that. Obviously the Big Ten championship will be a huge test, and if they do get in the playoffs and continue to have a stout D, then yeah, they’re up there with some of the greats.”