Five things: Ohio State-Wisconsin
September, 28, 2013
By Austin Ward | ESPN.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The race for the Big Ten championship kicks into high gear at the Horseshoe with No. 4 Ohio State hosting No. 23 Wisconsin (8 p.m., ABC) a game with so much intrigue, even the sideline will be worth watching.
Braxton's back: The brightest spotlight of all be on Ohio State's star quarterback, with Braxton Miller expected to be back in the starting lineup after missing the last two games and nearly all of a third with a sprained knee. Kenny Guiton has been nothing short of spectacular in his place, but Miller is the centerpiece of Urban Meyer's spread offense and should finally allow the Buckeyes to open up their attack after keeping it largely buttoned up leading into Big Ten play. Meyer has considered playing both Miller and Guiton and has experience managing two quarterbacks, dating to his days with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida. But if his starter is fully healthy, he's not likely to come off the field.
Key returners on defense, too: Miller commands the most attention, but the Buckeyes should also be as close to full strength on defense as they've been so far this season. Defensive end Adolphus Washington is expected to return from a nagging groin injury that has kept him on the shelf for the last two games, and tackle Michael Bennett also has been cleared after sitting out last week's blowout over Florida A&M with a stinger. Getting those starters back up front should be invaluable for the Buckeyes as they face what could be their stiffest test of the season: Wisconsin's power rushing attack.
Horsepower: There might not be a better collection of rushing talent on one field all season than what Wisconsin and Ohio State can put on display for a prime-time, national audience. James White and Melvin Gordon have been the more productive combo so far this season leading the Badgers, and the explosive ability of Gordon will certainly provide a test for the Buckeyes in the front seven. But with Carlos Hyde back after his three-game suspension, his partnership with Jordan Hall could provide a one-two punch that figures to be every bit as effective as White and Gordon, and there could be some bragging rights on the line in a head-to-head fight to determine the best backfield.
Bright lights, big stage: Bradley Roby has made it no secret that playing in big games in front of huge crowds, under the lights and with televisions tuned in to watch the Buckeyes, was a significant factor in his decision to return for another season. Opportunities for the redshirt junior cornerback to show his stuff don't get much much better than this, and Roby showed last year with two interceptions in similar circumstances at night against Nebraska that he doesn't shrink from the moment. When the Badgers turn to their passing game, Roby no doubtwill be looking to make something happen for the Buckeyes.
Pulling out the stops: As if an expected crowd of around 106,000 fans encouraged to "Scarlet Out the 'Shoe," the choice to wear rivalry uniforms or Meyer's praise of budding rivals Wisconsin as the "king" of the Big Ten didn't make it obvious how seriously the Buckeyes are taking this weekend as a showcase for the program, they pushed it over the top by confirming Friday that one of the most recognizable athletes in the world would be cheering them on from the sideline. LeBron James added yet another layer of hype to this critical division clash, and it also figures to impress a swarm of recruits on hand to experience what should be a wild atmosphere.
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BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
7:00 PM ET Eastern Illinois Minnesota 10:00 PM ET Rutgers Washington State
8:30 AM ET Penn State UCF 12:00 PM ET Youngstown State Illinois 12:00 PM ET Indiana State Indiana 12:00 PM ET Northern Iowa Iowa 12:00 PM ET Appalachian State Michigan 12:00 PM ET Ohio State Navy 12:00 PM ET Western Michigan Purdue 3:30 PM ET James Madison Maryland 3:30 PM ET Florida Atlantic Nebraska 3:30 PM ET California Northwestern 9:00 PM ET Wisconsin LSU