COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson tried to tone down the accolades and hyperbole that came after the Buckeyes' 763-yard explosion against overmatched Toledo last week.
Wilson, the former Indiana head coach, knows the challenge will be stiffer when the No. 3 Buckeyes (3-0) open their Big Ten schedule against Wisconsin (2-1) on Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.
"Big Ten play is more challenging, it's more physical up front, no disrespect (to other conferences)," Wilson said the other day.
"When you get into Big Ten play, it's a line-of-scrimmage league, it's a tough league," he said. "It wears on you week after week after week. We're starting with a big challenge with a great line-of-scrimmage team on both sides coming up when Wisconsin walks into the 'Shoe."
The message? Let's just wait and see what happens.
"As good as the (Buckeyes) offense might look, the offense is not good until the end of the year when you can see how tough and how consistent it is," Wilson said.
So far, so good for quarterback C.J. Stroud, who threw five touchdown passes last week in the 77-21 win. The Buckeyes routed Arkansas State in Week 2, after beating then-No. 5 Notre Dame 21-10 in the opener. The Irish have since fallen out of the AP Top 25.
Stroud really hit his stride last week, throwing passes into tight windows to receivers who made one acrobatic catch after another.
The Badgers opened with a rout of Illinois State but then were bounced from the AP Top 25 after being upset by unranked Washington State. A blowout of New Mexico State last week boosted the Badgers' confidence.
Both teams should have a clearer picture of where they stand after Saturday night's nationally televised contest.
"Any time you're in conference play, it ramps up a little bit, everything means a little bit more," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "Wisconsin's a good team, epitomizes everything the Big Ten is about."
Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig summed it up this way: "I can say this for a lot of guys — you dream about games like this."
STOPPING OHIO STATE
The Badgers again are built around a defense that ended 2021 as No. 1 in the nation.
Granted, it's only three non-conference games, but Wisconsin is so far limiting opponents to 246 total yards — 76 rushing yards and 170 passing yards — per game. Seven players have interceptions.
Ohio State, after last week's explosion, is the top offensive team in the country, averaging 8.44 yards per play and 563.3 yards per game.
"It's one thing (to say) ‘this is their scheme,' but the players understand that, and it allows them to really go out and play," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "And I think that's what they're doing really well."
The overhauled Buckeyes defense will have to stop the run to slow down Wisconsin.
Running back Braelon Allen picked up where he left off after rushing for 1,268 yards and eight touchdowns in his freshman year, third-best in the Big Ten. He's averaging 110 yards per game and 6.6 per carry in the first three games.
Quarterback Graham Mertz is in his second year as the starter.
"It will be the best quarterback we've seen. It will be the best running back we've seen," Day said. "There are a lot ‘best we've seen so far' (with Wisconsin)."
TREVEYON IS OK
AP Preseason All-American running back TreVeyon Henderson left last week's game after Ohio State's first offensive series with an unspecified injury.
Day said it was something that had been bothering the second-year back, and the decision was made to hold him out for the rest of what looked to be a lopsided game.
Day said this week that Henderson's injury "was a short-term thing," and he is expected to play this week.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
The Buckeyes will be playing the fourth of five straight home games to start the season and the third one with a late Saturday start.
"It's been good for recruiting," Day said of the night games, which draw large national TV audiences. "Those are long days. I do like when a noon game is done about 4:30 and you can go home and enjoy the rest of the day. But the electricity in the Horseshoe for a night game, there's nothing like it. And that's the give and take, I guess."
Wisconsin (2-1) at No. 3 Ohio State (3-0), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Line: Ohio State by 18 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Ohio State leads 61-18-5.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Wisconsin dropped out of the AP Top 25 after being beaten in Week 2 by heavy underdog Washington State. The Badgers rebounded last week to crush New Mexico State. Ohio State's offense is hitting its stride, rolling up 763 yards — second most in school history — in a 77-21 rout of Toledo last week. Ohio State coach Ryan Day had talked to his team about the importance of a dominating performance before the Buckeyes head into the Big Ten schedule, and that's what happened.
Ohio State’s passing game against Wisconsin’s defense. The Buckeyes scored almost at will against Toledo. C.J. Stroud was very accurate in throwing for 367 yards and five touchdowns. Three players racked up over 100 receiving yards. That happened for only the second time in school history.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wisconsin: Despite the Week 2 loss, quarterback Graham Mertz has looked good. He's completed 71% of his passes, throwing for nearly 700 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in the first three games.
Ohio State: WR Marvin Harrison Jr. is emerging as one of the team's best receivers. He had six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns last week and has 342 yards and five TDs in three games.
FACTS & FIGURES
Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson is expected to play after leaving last week’s game with an unspecified injury. ... Ohio State has won eight straight games over Wisconsin, including a 38-7 victory at Ohio Stadium in 2019 and a 34-21 win in the 2019 Big Ten championship game. ... Wisconsin's last win at Ohio Stadium was 2004 when the Badgers prevailed 24-13. ... Stroud is second in the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 208.6. ... Mertz has played his best football as a Badger in the first three games, ranking fifth in the country in pass efficiency. ... The Buckeyes will wear all black uniforms — including helmets — for the game under the lights. ... Ohio State scored touchdowns on each of its first seven drives last week.