Ohio State-Wisconsin grades: Buckeyes’ pressure helps fuel OT win

Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett performs very well in running game, while defense stifles Badgers in road victory.

| 8 months ago
(Dylan Buell, Getty Images)

(Dylan Buell, Getty Images)

Ohio State-Wisconsin grades: Buckeyes’ pressure helps fuel OT win

Ohio State Buckeyes 30, Wisconsin Badgers 23 (OT)

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Ohio State’s 30-23 overtime win over Wisconsin:

Ohio State Buckeyes

Quarterback grade: J.T. Barrett, 75.3

Wisconsin’s linebackers did a solid job of containing Ohio State’s running backs, but on both designed runs and scrambles, Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett was able to evade defenders and come up with the key plays to add an extra dimension that Wisconsin couldn’t quite cope with. Barrett was able to provide timely plays in the clutch, both when Ohio State was trailing late in the game and in overtime that made Barrett the difference-maker in this game. Barrett’s strongest area of the field to throw to was outside the right numbers, where he went 7-of-10 for 142 yards, including his overtime TD pass to Noah Brown.

Top offensive grades:

C Pat Elflein, 83.1

WR Noah Brown, 71.1

RB Curtis Samuel, 70.6

RG Billy Price, 69.4

RB Mike Weber, 63.4

Elflein controls the middle for Ohio State

After two impressive seasons at left guard for the Buckeyes, Pat Elflein has slid down to the center spot almost seamlessly, producing his best play as Big Ten conference games have gotten up and running in the last three weeks. Elflein had his best game of the season Saturday night, dominating Wisconsin nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, with his blocking paving the way for Ohio State’s ball-carriers to gain 4.1 yards per carry through the A-gaps (either side of the center) while they gained only 2.7 yards per carry on rushes off guard. Aside from Elflein’s power through the middle, the Buckeyes relied largely on speed plays to the edge, gaining 25 percent of their rushing yards on runs wide off end, often away from the blocking on inverted read plays.

Top defensive grades:

CB Gareon Conley, 83.5

DE Sam Hubbard, 81.8

DE Nick Bosa, 81.7

DE Jalyn Holmes, 74.6

DE Tyquan Lewis, 71.7

Defensive ends deliver the pressure

Replacing a defensive end of the caliber of Joey Bosa — the No. 3 overall pick of San Diego’s who has played very well in his two games so far — is no small task, but replacing one man with a group helps spread the load, and Ohio State’s corps of defensive ends all stood up to be counted last night. Each of Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa recorded at least four total pressures and multiple hits or sacks on Wisconsin’s quarterback. Bosa led the way with seven pressures, taking his season total to 18 on only 77 pass rushes; he trails only Boston College’s Harold Landry (18.9) among 4-3 defensive ends in our pass-rushing productivity metric at 17.5. One of the players capitalizing on that pressure was CB Gareon Conley, who allowed his first completion since Week 2, but more than made up for that with his second interception and fifth pass breakup of the season.

Wisconsin Badgers

Quarterback grade: Alex Hornibrook, 68.1

This was a stronger outing for Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook than he produced against Michigan at the Big House prior to Wisconsin’s bye week. He hit on some big plays down the field, including a well-placed pass for a 30-yard gain to TE Troy Fumagalli to set up one of Wisconsin’s field goals in the second quarter. However, the down-to-down consistency was not there from him to elevate the Badgers and deliver the big plays in the clutch. His velocity and pass placement allowed Ohio State’s defensive backs to make plays on the ball and recover at times when they had allowed separation. Ultimately, Hornibrook’s subpar down-to-down play ensured that the big plays weren’t enough to carry Wisconsin to victory.

Top offensive grades:

TE Troy Fumagalli, 76.4

LT Ryan Ramczyk, 73.6

C Brett Connors, 68.3

WR Robert Wheelwright, 66.9

RB Corey Clement, 63.1

Badgers offense comes up short in OT

The Wisconsin offensive line struggled against Michigan, providing their running backs with only 0.55 yards per carry before contact, but this week they bounced back with Wisconsin’s running backs getting 1.57 yards per carry before contact. That strong showing, particularly from the likes of LT Ryan Ramczyk, didn’t extend to overtime, however, with the Badgers failing to gain a single yard on three carries and surrendering pressure to Hornibrook on all three dropbacks. Ramczyk in particular struggled in the extra session, missing two run blocks and surrendering pressure to Bosa on Hornibrook’s second-down throwaway. The Wisconsin offensive line answered their critics in this game, until the game’s decisive drive.

Top defensive grades:

ILB Jack Cichy, 84.5

S D’Cota Dixon, 82.5

OLB T.J. Watt, 81.3

S Leo Musso, 75.4

CB Derrick Tindal, 73.7

Cichy powers Wisconsin’s defense

Once again playing without excellent outside linebacker Vince Biegel due to injury, the Wisconsin defense was led by inside linebacker Jack Cichy, who recorded a game-high seven defensive stops, comfortably outplaying Ohio State’s more heralded linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Cichy and outside linebacker T.J. Watt were the strength of the Wisconsin run defense in particular, with NT Olive Sagapolu struggling to hold up at the point of attack against Ohio State’s offensive line. Safety D’Cota Dixon put in a strong performance for the second game in a row, including his first interception since Week 1, after an inconsistent beginning to his first season as a starter.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

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