Wisconsin opens their Big Ten Conference schedule with a bang, heading to Columbus for a match-up with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
It is time for the 2022 Wisconsin Badgers football season preview extravaganza to begin! Over the next (almost) two months we will be preparing you for the upcoming football season. We’ve got previews of every team on Wisconsin’s schedule, we’ve got positional breakdowns of each group at UW, we’ll have predictions for the full conference, rankings of the top units in the Big Ten as well as a couple of larger features that we think are interesting.
Next up, Wisconsin’s first conference opponent, Ohio State.
Team: Ohio State Buckeyes
Head coach: Ryan Day, third season, 34-4
2021 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 Big Ten Conference
Game info: Saturday, Sept. 24, TBD, Ohio Stadium
Top returning players
- Junior, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, 95 receptions for 1,606 yards (16.9 ypc), nine touchdowns, 124 ypg.
- Sophomore, RB TreVeyon Henderson, 183 attempts for 1,248 yards (6.8 ypc), 15 touchdowns, 96 ypg, 27 receptions for 312 yards (11.6 ypc.), four touchdowns
- Sophomore, QB C.J. Stroud, 317-441 (71.9%) passing for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns, six interceptions, 370 pyg.
- Junior DL Zach Harrison, 25 total tackles, six for loss, two sacks, three passes defended and one forced fumble.
- DB Tanner McCalister, transfer from Oklahoma State, who followed his defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from one OSU to another. Expected to be one of the starting safeties.
- Freshman, TE Bennett Christian, 3-star recruit out of Acworth (Ga.) Allatoona High School. Following Jeremy Ruckert going to the NFL and Cade Stover moving to linebacker, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Christian could see the field early.
- Freshman, QB Devin Brown, 4-star recruit out of Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah. Brown is expected to emerge as Stroud’s back up in 2022.
- Freshman, LB C.J. Hicks, 5-star recruit out of Archbishop Alter High School. Was ranked the top recruit in the state of Ohio and earned the nickname of ‘Captain Buckeye,’ for his efforts in trying to get other highly-ranked players to join the Buckeyes
Top newcomers from Wisconsin!
- Freshman, OL Carson Hinzman, 4-star recruit out of Hammond. Was the third best recruit in the state of Wisconsin and the ninth ranked at his position in the whole country.
2021 season review
Ohio State turned in yet another Ohio State-like season in 2021, despite suffering an early loss at the hands of No. 12 Oregon in the second week of the season (35-28). Following the loss to the Ducks, the Buckeyes won nine consecutive games, including wins over ranked opponents: No. 20 Penn State, No. 19 Purdue and No. 7 Michigan State. Over that span, Ohio State really imposed their will on the opposition outscoring them 446-143. The Buckeyes scored 50 or more points in six of their nine consecutive wins.
However, the Buckeyes did, hilariously, finish the regular season with a loss to No. 5 Michigan, 42-27.
The loss kept Ohio State out of the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time since 2016, ending a streak of four-straight conference championship game appearances and wins. It was also the first time that Michigan had defeated Ohio State since the 2011 season and only the third time since the 2003 season. This turned the season into a disappointing one for the Buckeyes and their fans as Ohio State fell just short of the pinnacle of college football, the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State capped off the season with a thrilling 48-45 victory over No. 11 Utah in the Rose Bowl. Utah held a 35-21 advantage at halftime, but OSU outscored the Utes 27-10 in the second half. In the game, Stroud went 37-of-46 for 573 yards and six touchdowns, while Smith-Njigba hauled in a Rose Bowl record 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rose Bowl was just the capper on a Heisman Trophy finalist season for Stroud, who had taken over under center for Justin Fields. Stroud led the nation in QBR at 89.6 during the regular season and, including the Rose Bowl victory, he had five games with at least five touchdown passes.
Ohio State saw six players get taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, including two in the first round – Garrett Wilson (No. 10 overall) and Chris Olave (No. 11 overall), both wide receivers.
Key stat: Ohio State’s offense ranked No. 1 in yards per game with 561.2 and No. 1 in points, scoring 45.7 per game, during the 2021 season. Ohio State was second in the nation with a 52.3 percent success rate on third down (81-of-155). Basically, the Buckeye offense was a freight train and there was very little the opposition could do.
2022 season preview
While most would have seen the 2021 season as a success, Ohio State considered it a disappointment, as the team lost to Michigan and failed to reach the Big Ten Championship game and the Playoff.
Ohio State’s defense, which allowed 20.9 points and 366.6 yards per game in 2021, while getting pushed around a bit by more physical teams, got a new leader in Knowles who led Oklahoma State’s top-5 defense in 2021. Tackling seemed to be an issue at times for Ohio State and they did have a penchant for giving up the occasional big play, so if they want to return to college football’s promised land, Knowles will have to live up to the hype and shore up the Buckeyes defense.
Head coach Ryan Day, also brought in Justin Frye from UCLA, to help with the Buckeyes offensive line.
It may come as no surprise, but ESPN has Ohio State ranked No. 1 in it’s 2022 preseason rankings and Ohio State is THE favorite to win the Big Ten, as well as a shoo-in for the College Football Playoff.
Even without NFL draftees, Wilson and Olave, the Buckeye offense looks poised for another high-scoring season in 2022 with the combination of Stroud and Smith-Njigba picked to be the top QB/WR duo in college football.
Smith-Njigba set school records with 95 receptions and 1,606 yards in 2021 and proved he can play without Wilson and Olave, as neither played in the Rose Bowl. Joining Smith-Njigba as the top receiving threat for Stroud is Marvin Harrison Jr. who started in the Rose Bowl, recording six receptions for 71 yards and three touchdowns. Just as in the past, Ohio State’s offense is a revolving door, with players leaving for the NFL, making way for more players that will leave for the NFL and so on and so forth.
Ohio State will open the season hosting Notre Dame on Sept. 3 and will face Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland and lastly, Michigan in their Big Ten slate of games. The Buckeyes will get Arkansas State and Toledo to round out the non-conference schedule, before opening the Big Ten Season against the Badgers.
Ohio State is very, very, very good and will be a formidable opponent to open the Big Ten season for the Badgers. The Badger defense will have its hands full for sure, but if Wisconsin can keep the Buckeyes high-powered offense at bay, the Badgers may have a chance in the game.