One of the challenges about judging college football teams during the early stretches of the season is that the level of competition isn’t always a great barometer to gauge talent. The Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers have largely gone untested in the early going (OSU in particular) which makes their showdown on Saturday a valuable proving ground for each program. So how good are these teams, really?
Looking at raw numbers, both programs look stellar. Ohio State is No. 4 in points scored, No. 6 in rushing yards, No. 9 in rush defense and ranks in the top 15 in both total offense and total defense. On the other side, Wisconsin ranks No. 10 in points allowed, No. 12 in total offense, No. 3 in rush offense, No. 6 in rush defense and No. 6 in total defense. On paper, these are elite teams.
However, looking at the teams that those number came against puts those statistics into perspective. Ohio State hasn’t played a team ranked higher than No. 97 in rushing offense, No. 112 in passing defense and has faced two programs (plus a lower-tier FCS team) that rank No. 118 or lower against the run.
Wisconsin has also feasted on teams that are struggling statisitcally in the early going. The Badgers’ stiff run defense has come against three teams ranked outside the top-100 in rushing offense (plus an FCS foe) and the best run defense Wisconsin has played was the Arizona State Sun Devils (ranked No. 79 in the country) in a game that the Badgers ultimately lost.
Both programs have looked strong in the early going and well-deserving of their rankings so far. But neither has been pushed to their limit by a strong team which makes this matchup today even more important. Not only does the winner have the inside track to the Leaders Division title and a spot in the Big Ten title game, but we may finally know how good these teams are and how far they can go in the chase for a BSC National Championship berth.
Join Kris Hughes and Tyler Brett for even more analysis of the Wisconsin/Ohio State matchup live on the Google + College Football Pregame Rant this Saturday at 4 central time live online! We’ll be picking two fans — one from each team — to tell us why their team will win and add to a lively discussion on what we see as each team’s keys to victory. Join us!