Wisconsin has now been to three straight Rose Bowls, but 2013 represents the biggest threat to the Badgers' crown. Ohio State is off probation and looking like one of the top teams in the country. Urban Meyer has infiltrated the Big 10 and brought his dynamic spread offense with him. The Buckeyes are now among the contenders for the national championship.
But the Buckeyes will host the Badgers on Saturday night. Wisconsin is off to a hot start and finds itself back in the top 25, despite a tough loss to Arizona State. Not only is this one of college football's games of the week, but it also features a handful of players that will be playing on Sundays sooner rather than later. Let's take a look.
Wisconsin at Ohio State - 8 p.m. ET - ABC
When Wisconsin has the football
In Wisconsin, they run the football. That hasn't changed in years and won't change on Saturday night. Instead of the big bruising running backs of old, the Badgers have a young running back that may be the best in the country and stretching plays outside and making people miss in the open field. Redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon has been dynamic in the first month of the season, showcasing breakaway speed and ankle-breaking change of direction at the second level. Senior guard Ryan Groy will have to help ensure Gordon is able to get to the second level.
The man tasked with keeping Gordon in check will be Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, a speedy linebacker with the physicality to match. He's been banged up a bit early in the season but enters Saturday's game healthy and ready to roll.
When the Badgers are forced to go to the air, Jared Abbrederis is who they are likely to target. The senior wide receiver has had a productive career at Wisconsin and has a shot to be a day three pick with another productive season. On Saturday, Bradley Roby, one of the top cover cornerbacks in the nation, will be lined up across from Abbrederis, which should be his biggest test of the season. Wisconsin's other talented pass rusher is tight end Jacob Pedersen, who will also have a stiff test with Ohio State senior safety C.J. Barnett lined up across from him. Those two matchups will determine whether or not the Badgers are able to establish any sort of balance on offense.
When Ohio State has the football
Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton have both flashed the ability to lead Ohio State's offense this season, and Guiton;s early season performance may be enough to earn him some snaps, despite Miller returning to the lineup this week. Both have intriguing NFL potential, though Miller's is less likely to be at quarterback. It helps that they play behind an offensive line ripe with NFL potential. Jack Mewhort may be the most intriguing of the bunch, with the versatility to play both guard and tackle. He's one of the leaders of that offensive line and will be anchoring it at left tackle. The interior of the line is experienced and talented as well. Center Corey Linsley and guards Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell showing pro potential.
Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland will have his hands full when it comes to getting into the backfield. Despite allowing four touchdowns to Arizona State running back Marion Grice, Wisconsin held him to just 3.8 yards per carry. Though the air, the Badgers didn't have as much luck.Safety Dez Southward has some NFL talent, but there's not much outside of him worth getting excited about. Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith may find some room in the secondary.
Question of the night
Can Ohio State slow down Melvin Gordon?
Maybe the question should be, can anyone slow down Melvin Gordon? It's hard to find many backs more talented and productive so far in 2013, and the Ohio State defense better be up to the task. So far this season, Gordon is averaging more than 11 yards per carry after averaging just over 10 yards per carry a season ago. That's not a fluke, either. This kid can play.