Buckeyes look to avoid letdown at Wisconsin

Published 7:13 pm Thursday, October 26, 2023

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Ohio State is hoping it has figured out the proper way to respond after an emotional victory over a ranked team.

The third-ranked Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) visit Big Ten West leader Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday night, one week after the Buckeyes’ 20-12 triumph over Penn State in a top-10 clash.

“We can’t let last week affect this week,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “Championship teams bring it every week. They don’t have ups and downs and letdowns.”

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The Buckeyes survived a minor letdown in a similar situation earlier this season. After a last-second win at Notre Dame, Ohio State had a week off before struggling through much of a matchup with Maryland in its next game. The Buckeyes eventually pulled way in the fourth quarter to beat Maryland 37-17.

Ohio State heads into Wisconsin as a 14 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. This game matches the Buckeyes against a Wisconsin team led by coach Luke Fickell, a former Ohio State defensive lineman, graduate assistant, assistant coach and interim head coach.

Fickell said this week the focus should be on the players rather than his own connections to Ohio State.

“That’s not what it’s about,” Fickell said.

Ohio State beat Penn State by relying on star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and a defense that ranks among the nation’s best. The Buckeyes are third among Bowl Subdivision teams in points allowed per game (10.0), fifth in yards allowed per game (260.1) and second in yards allowed per play (3.93).

That defense will be facing a quarterback making just his second career start.

Braedyn Locke bounced back from an early fumble and threw two touchdown passes last week as Wisconsin rallied from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win 25-21 at Illinois. Locke now gets to make his first home start in prime time against a top opponent.

“It’s kind of a moment that you dream of as a kid when you’re young and being a college football fan,” said Locke, who took over as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback after Tanner Mordecai broke his right hand. “These are the types of games you want to play in.”


This is the third time Fickell has been on the coaching staff of a team that faced his alma mater. He coached Akron’s defensive line when the Zips fell 28-14 to Ohio State in 2001 and was Cincinnati’s head coach for a 42-0 loss at Ohio State in 2019.


Ohio State backup quarterback Devin Brown is expected to miss a couple weeks after injuring an ankle after being inserted in last week’s game for a designed quarterback run near the goal line.

Brown was beaten out by McCord for the starting job in the preseason and has played sparingly since.

Day said the backup will be either Tristan Gebbia or Lincoln Kienholz. Gebbia is a transfer who previously played at Oregon State and Nebraska. Kienholz is a true freshman who hasn’t taken a snap in a college game.

“We’ll go through the week and give those guys reps and see how that goes,” Day said. “One is a more experienced guy. One is a younger guy who we think has a bright future here.”


Ohio State has won its last nine meetings with Wisconsin, including a 52-21 blowout in Columbus last season. But the last two matchups in Madison both went to overtime.

The Buckeyes won 30-23 in 2016 and 21-14 in 2012. Fickell was an Ohio State assistant on Urban Meyer’s staff in both those seasons.

Wisconsin’s last win over Ohio State came in 2010, when the 18th-ranked Badgers beat the top-ranked Buckeyes 31-18 in Madison.


Without star back TreVeyon Henderson, the Buckeyes continue to struggle in the run game. They’re ranked 101st in yards rushing per game and 14th in yards passing per game.

Miyan Williams, starting in front of the injured Henderson, had 24 rushes for 62 yards against Penn State. Henderson and Williams both rushed for over 100 yards against Wisconsin last season.

Day said Henderson could be back this week. So could receiver Emeka Egbuka, who has missed two games with an injury.


Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen rushed for 165 yards against Ohio State last year, but much of that total came after the Buckeyes had put the game out of reach. Allen has a Big Ten-leading 100.57 yards rushing per game and ran for 145 yards against Illinois last week.