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5 things to know about Wisconsin's next opponent: No. 3 Ohio State

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Notre Dame Ohio St Football

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud looks to pass against Notre Dame during their game earlier this season.

The Badgers start Big Ten play this week on the road against its toughest regular-season opponent.

The University of Wisconsin will head to Columbus later this week for a Saturday evening meeting with No. 3 Ohio State (6:30 p.m., ABC) inside The Horsehoe.

The Buckeyes (3-0) dismantled MAC program Toledo in a 77-21 rout last weekend and previously took down Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame to kick off their season. 

Ohio State’s offense once again poses a threat in multiple facets, while its defense continues to make strides under a new defensive coordinator.

Here are five things to know about the Buckeyes.

Badgers football beat reporter Colten Bartholomew and columnist Jim Polzin preview Wisconsin's toughest regular season matchup in 2022 when the Badgers head to Columbus to take on No. 3 Ohio State Saturday.

A thriving aerial attack

Ohio State enters the conference crossover clash averaging 358.3 yards passing per game on its way to leading the nation in total yards per contest (565.3). Quarterback C.J. Stroud has completed nearly 73% of his throws for 941 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. 

The two main targets through three games have been wide receivers Emeka Egbuka (20 receptions, 384 yards, three touchdowns) and Marvin Harrison Jr. (18 receptions, 342 yards, five touchdowns). UW will not forget about Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who caught 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021 even with the NFL-bound Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson on the field with him. Smith-Njigba (four receptions, 36 yards) has been slowed early this season due to injury but returned against Toledo.

UW (2-1) allows 170 yards passing per contest, and it ranks tied for second in the FBS in interceptions (seven). 

Rushing attack potent, too

This truly will be a test for one of the nation’s top defenses not just through the air, but also on the ground. Badgers foes have averaged 76 yards per contest on 2.7 yards per carry, but the Buckeyes average 207 yards rushing per game.

A duo of backs lead the way for Ryan Day’s offense. Miyan Williams, who is in his third year with the program, has rushed for a team-leading 207 yards on 6.5 yards per carry with one touchdown. Sophomore TreVeyon Henderson, a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season, has gained 197 yards on 6.8 yards per attempt with three touchdowns.

One other key stat: Ohio State ranks third in the nation in third down conversions, moving the chains on 62.2% of its opportunities.

Revamped defense

New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles took over the Ohio State defense this season, and the results have been positive so far. The Buckeyes have allowed 14.3 points and 278.7 yards per game while accumulating 27 tackles for loss and eight sacks entering Saturday night’s contest.

“They got some big athletic dudes, so it'll definitely be the toughest challenge thus far,” UW tight end Hayden Rucci said. “So it's gonna take a great week of preparation, but we'll be ready for it.”

One area Ohio State likely is looking to improve in comes from creating turnovers. It is credited with only two takeaways (one interception and one fumble recovery) in three games.

Brutus’ dominance over Bucky

UW heads to Columbus on an eight-game losing streak in the series against Ohio State, and its last victory came in 2010 during that historic upset over the No. 1 Buckeyes.

OSU leads the all-time series 61-18-5, and UW holds a 7-31-3 mark when playing against the Buckeyes in Columbus.

The Badgers last won in Columbus during the 2004 season — a 24-13 victory. Former UW All-American safety turned current defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard tied for the team lead in tackles (six) in that win.

Recruiting excellence

Ohio State reloads rather than rebuilds each year (see its seemingly unending assembly line of productive wide receivers), and the Buckeyes owning the recruiting trail plays a huge role in this. The program has been out of the top 10 rankings just once in the the previous four recruiting cycles:

  • 2019: 14th (247Sports composite), 21st (Rivals) 

  • 2020: 5th (247Sports composite and Rivals)

  • 2021: 2nd (247Sports composite and Rivals)

  • 2022: 4th (247Sports composite and Rivals)

There should be an asterisk on 2019 because future NFL first-round quarterback Justin Fields transferred into the program before that season. Day's 2022 class includes a key talent from the Badger State, four-star offensive lineman Carson Hinzman (St. Croix Central; Hammond, Wisconsin).

The Buckeyes’ class of 2023 continues the trend of being among the best in the nation, currently ranking second and sixth in the nation according to Rivals and 247Sports composite rankings, respectively.

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