I think Wisconsin was put in its place a little bit today. While they didn’t play badly, their flaws were exposed enough to show us that, right now, the Badgers are just an above average team beating up on worse teams. They went up against a ranked team today in Ohio State and, quite simply, were beaten. The most glaring flaw in their team, and I suspected this from the start, is their quarterback.
While other members of the Badgers probably stack up against upper echelon teams such as Ohio State, Scott Tolzien can not with. He is quite simply not that good a quarterback. Ohio State did an excellent job of stopping the run today, and it put the game in Tolzien’s hands. As I suspected, he was unable to handle the pressure and performed quite badly. He gave up two picks that were returned for touchdowns and failed to throw for any TDs whatsoever. Tolzien lacks the skills necessary to be a high-level quarterback in the FBS, and his lack of ability was on full display at the game today.
This is not to put the entire burden of defeat upon Scott Tolzien, because the loss was not only his fault. The offensive line of the Badgers was completely dominated by the defensive line of the Buckeyes. Winning at the line is the best way to disrupt good offenses. In this case, Ohio State’s trench victories worked on two levels. The first was that it prevented John Clay from ever getting going. It also meant continuous pressure on Tolzien, preventing him from ever getting into a throwing rhythm. The offensive line’s inability to handle the rush was most evident in the number of sacks they gave up: 6, when it had only given up two sacks through their first five games of the season. The game was won at the line of scrimmage, and the Badgers offensive line just came up short.
Defensively, I thought they played very well, especially for the first half. They got pressure on Terrelle Pryor multiple times, were able to sack him a few times, and even forced him to throw an interception of his own, one which the Badgers were able to convert into their one touchdown using a fake field goal attempt. Unfortunately, I think the inability of the offense to string together long drives kept the defense out there too long. While they played all right in the second half, they clearly tired towards the end, giving up a passing touchdown from Pryor that probably could’ve been defensed earlier in the game.
I don’t usually mention special teams, but there were two glaring moments in their performance today. The first, obviously, was the touchdown return they allowed to Ohio State, which gave Ohio State a 15 point lead and effectively put the game out of reach. The second was when Wisconsin received a kickoff, and the receiver ignored his blocker’s warning to just take the touch-back and ran it out of the end-zone. He was tackled at the 5-yard line, and it was simply too much distance for Wisconsin to cover, score, onside kick, and then score again. They strung a good drive together, but it killed most of the clock and came up with zero points anyway.
I don’t know if I would rank Wisconsin after this loss. I don’t think this was one of those defeats where you show you belong at the top even though you lost (think “Rocky”). This was just a defeat by a team that played better than you defensively, offensively (though maybe just barely), and on special teams. Wisconsin will get another shot to show it belongs on the list next week when Iowa comes to Camp Randall, but they better play a lot better than this.