MADISON, Wisc. – The winner of the Oct. 25 match between Ohio State and Wisconsin will find themselves in good position to claim one of two spots in the Big Ten Universities Championship match. At the moment, Wisconsin and Ohio State share 3-1 conference records, but the Badgers have a slight lead in the BTU standings with five bonus points compared to the Buckeyes’ four.
Ohio State is currently riding a three-match winning streak after the month of September issued mixed results. The Buckeyes challenged themselves in nonconference play, but dropped matches against legitimate sides such as Navy, Bowling Green, and Notre Dame, then had to open BTU play against arguably the best team in the Conference – Indiana.
“We built our schedule that way for a reason,” explained Ohio State Head Coach Ron Bowers. “We know that even if we lost to those teams that we’d be better prepared for the Big Ten season.”
Bowers and his staff believe the team’s recent string of victories has as much to do with a more manageable portion of its schedule as it has to do with getting a number of players back from injury. Even with a few key players returning to form, Ohio State must prevent lapses between quality phases of play.
“Our biggest problem right now is our consistency,” Bowers said. “We’ll play good defense for two phases then fall apart. If we can just become consistent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, we can be a pretty good team.”
As for Wisconsin, the squad is eager to get back on the pitch after a three-week break in their Big Ten Universities schedule. The Badgers won two matches comfortably out of the gates, but haven’t seen live action since their heartbreaking, 32-27 loss to Michigan Oct. 4.
The lengthy layover has allowed for a few bumps and bruises to heal, though 21 days between matches could be a cause for concern, as well.
“We definitely had some injuries coming out of the Michigan game, but I think we’ve got three or four guys back to health that might not have been able to play otherwise,” Wisconsin Head Coach Nic Tyson said. “But we’ve also missed out on some practice time due to weather, so we worry about being a little rusty.”
Even if Wisconsin is forced to work through a few miscues in the early goings of Saturday’s match due to rust, the game should be a high-scoring affair. Entering the week, Ohio State and Wisconsin boast the highest scoring offenses in the conference.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting game,” asserted Tyson. “Both teams try to play an up-tempo game and keep the other team moving around. I know Ohio State has good set pieces and some smart decision makers at their halfbacks. So, I think it will be a pretty open game.”
Ohio State seems to share Wisconsin’s excitement for Saturday’s encounter.
“We’re just really looking forward to it,” Bowers expressed. “Madison is beautiful this time of year, we have a tough opponent to go up against, and there is a lot on the line. It should be a good match.”