Wisconsin Football’s Critics Might Have Been Right

Picture: Darayus Sanjana/WSUM

Author: Jamie Weintraub

Another season of College Football in the Big Ten has concluded, and with that came another Wisconsin loss in the Big Ten Championship. I won’t lie, heading into the matchup with Ohio State, I was overly confident.  

The fact that Ohio State opened as a 6.5-point favorite, I found laughable and couldn’t imagine the Badgers not trouncing the Buckeyes en route to their first college football playoff appearance. However, my assumptions were far from accurate and Wisconsin was clearly outmatched on both sides of the ball in a 27-21 loss.  

Let’s start with the offense. From the first series, it was evident that Wisconsin’s offensive line was not the group it had been made out to be. The Buckeye front four consistently beat their offensive counterparts placing constant pressure on Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook and leaving little room for Wisconsin’s running backs to operate.   

Heading into the game, many questioned how Hornibrook would fare if the Ohio State defense took away the run, and that’s exactly what they did. Freshman running back phenom Jonathan Taylor was held largely in check, running for just 41 yards on 15 carries. Wisconsin’s offensive line appeared to be decisively outmatched and Taylor spattered to just 2.7 yards per carry as a result. As for Hornibrook, he did not impress in the biggest game of the season. Coming off arguably his strongest performance against Minnesota, Hornibrook failed to complete more than 50% of passes and at times looked afraid of Ohio State’s explosive pass rush. Despite all my pessimism, the offense had opportunities to win the game, yet the final drive ended with a Hornibrook interception, a narrative that seems too fitting. 

The Badgers’ defense was supposed to be a group that could keep the Badgers in games even when the offense faltered. While the game was within a score and the defense allowed just six points in the second half, this still didn’t like the group we fell in love with all season long.  

For starters, J.T. Barrett, Ohio State’s senior QB, who played a sub-par game by his usual standards, saw no pressure all game long. The Badgers defense forced zero sacks.  Most concerning, the Badgers allowed four plays of 50 yards or more, after having allowed only 3 plays of that total all season. Those huge plays consistently led to scores for the Buckeyes and while Wisconsin’s defense played admirably down the stretch, it wasn’t enough. Positive plays were made, such as Andrew Van Ginkel’s interception return or his strip sack recovery, yet not enough was done to stop the Buckeyes from coming out victorious. 

In the end, it seems the critics who claimed Wisconsin was never deserving of a playoff appearance were right all along. While the events of this past weekend have been disappointing, this has still been an extremely successful season for the program and nothing to hang our heads over. The football program continues get better with each season and I expect that to continue under the leadership of Head Coach Paul Chryst.  

Going forward, Wisconsin will make their first appearance in the Orange Bowl and face off against the University of Miami, another team with a long undefeated run that came up just short of their ultimate goals. Wisconsin will look to continue their streak of success in bowl games and win their fourth in as many years.