Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 29, 2017
With Wisconsin set to take on Ohio State in the Big Ten title game on Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, what better person to talk to about the matchup than a Big Ten coach who played both teams? No one. So, I did just that ? off the record.
Here?s what one of the six coaches to face both teams said:
Q: What do you think of the Buckeye offense?
A: I thought Ohio State?s offensive line developed over the course of the spring and summer. They were better than they were the year before. They moved some guys around including the center, who is a big, strong kid. I thought they moved extremely well.
Having both (J.K.) Dobbins and (Mike) Weber gave them a good 1-2 punch, which I think they lacked the year before. We weren?t sure how much they were going to run J.T. (Barrett). I think he?s a great player. But I felt we could take advantage of his lack of success throwing the ball down the field. Their size up front took a toll on our d-line.
Q: How will the Wisconsin defense do vs. that offense?
A: That?s the big question. If Ohio State can throw the ball down the field, I think they can give Wisconsin trouble. I still can?t figure out what happened to Ohio State in the Iowa game. It just blows me away. I think Ohio State is a better football team (than Wisconsin). They are so athletic up front, the receivers have speed. Their receivers made more plays than they did last year. They really didn?t have that the year before. I think they can give Wisconsin?s secondary some trouble.
If Ohio State can?t throw, Wisconsin is so good against the run ? Urban Meyer hates playing against the 3-4. It gives him some trouble. And Wisconsin plays it as well as anybody. But I don?t know if Wisconsin has the firepower on offense to just run the ball against them and outscore them. I will be surprised if Ohio State doesn?t win the game.
Q: What did you think of the Ohio State defense?
A: They are so talented individually. But they haven?t played as well as a whole group as you thought they might. I think their problem is the secondary more than anything. Their corners haven?t been as good as they were projected to be. But they are still awfully talented. They don?t have that marquee linebacker in the middle like they had with the (Raekwon) McMillan kid for so many years. I still think their front is extremely talented.
(The Badgers) were the most massive, biggest o-line I ever went against in all my coaching career. Their ability to just wash you laterally ? there aren?t a lot of answers for that. But when you have big, physical linemen who can match that athletically and strength-wise, I think OSU has a chance to give them some trouble with their front. I just don?t think Wisconsin has the skill at the receiver position to really stress Ohio State in the pass game.
Q: How will Wisconsin attack?
A: They have to try to wear down the Ohio State d-line with their size and style of play. They will play-action pass. They can?t just five- and seven-step drop. They need play-action and to get the ball out quick. Because Ohio State?s d-line will cause problems. The Wisconsin tackles aren?t good pass-pro guys. And their guards struggle just the same. They have to get the ball out quick, and play-action. They can?t let Ohio State sit on a launch point and attack (Alex) Hornibrook. I don?t think their o-line is good enough athletically to protect vs. that Ohio State d-line.
Q: What do you think of Hornibrook?
A: He was better in person than I thought he would be. He was more accurate. We thought we could get to him because of their tackles … He is very poised and very accurate. But if he gets off point, I don?t think he protects the ball very well. And if his feet aren?t set, he struggles a little bit. And I think Ohio State can affect him by not letting him get comfortable.
Q: How good is Jonathan Taylor?
A: He is the difference. He, to me, makes them elite. He?s more special than anyone else they have. He is so patient. He is strong, has tremendous balance. And he is hard to tackle. If they win, it will be because of him.
Q: What do you think of the Wisconsin receivers?
A: I don?t think they have enough juice there to stress Ohio State. I don?t. I think the tight end is really good. I think their tight ends were the best combination of pass catchers/blockers of anyone we played all year.
Q: What if J.T. Barrett can?t go?
A: I think that they are in trouble. They need him. And they need him at his best. I don?t think the other guy provides enough of a run threat. You have to have the run threat. That?s what makes them what they are. When he?s running, it?s enough to keep them balanced. That?s what makes their offense effective.