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Badgers happy with extra prep time for No. 2 Ohio State

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) passes in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines Oct. 1 at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 14-7. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

Wisconsin could not have asked for a better time for its bye week this season. After grueling games against Top 10 ranked Michigan and Michigan, the Badgers had a two-week break before hosting No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday.

“We got a lot out of the bye week,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “We’re looking forward to a chance to be back home and play Ohio State. It will be fun for the kids and we need to have a good week of preparation.”

The Badgers moved up three spots to No. 8 in the AP and No. 10 in the Coaches Poll. Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) has to be healthy and playing stellar defense against OSU’s young but potent offense.

Wisconsin nearly beat top-five ranked Michigan on the road, even without its best defensive player — linebacker Vince Biegel. Originally listed as out for two to four weeks, Biegel remains doubtful for the Buckeyes. Linebacker T.J. Watt is playing at a high level after switching from tight end prior to the fall of 2015 camp.

Watt has 4.5 sacks to lead the Badgers. Wisconsin’s defense faces a tough test trying to slow down Ohio State’s offense. Though filled with young and inexperienced players, the Buckeyes’ offense is putting up points at a high pace.

Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) defeated upstart Indiana 38-17 last week and enters Saturday’s game averaging 53.2 points, 323.6 yards rushing and 214 yards passing per game. Overall, Ohio State is averaging 537.6 yards per game.

The main order of business for Wisconsin’s defense is slowing down Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. A dual threat, Barrett is 79-of-123 passing for 981 yards with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. Mike Weber leads Ohio State’s rushing attack, rushing for 566 yards and four touchdowns and Curtis Samuel tops the receiving corps with 23 receptions for 345 yards and three touchdowns.

“(J.T’s) a really good quarterback and he looks to me like he has a great understanding of what they’re trying to do,” Chryst said. “He’s a point guard, and he’s a really good one.”

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Wisconsin’s defense represents a formidable challenge.

“Outstanding, typical Wisconsin,” Meyer said. “I can push play and see it is one of the best-coached teams in American. Defense, they’re outstanding. — They’ve changed defensive coordinators and still the same defense, Wisconsin’s defense. It’s one of the best teams in America.”

Wisconsin freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook has another big challenge after starting at Michigan. In four games, he has passed for 466 yards on 38-of-68 with four touchdowns and five interceptions.

“Alex is very confident and he’ll be himself,” Chryst said.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

—QB Alex Hornibrook is getting a good look at the top teams in the conference. After playing against Michigan State and Michigan, the freshman is set to start against No. 2 Ohio State. He’s already proven to be the quarterback of the future, but if he can limit his mistakes and turnovers, he could lead the Badgers to an upset.

—RB Corey Clement leads the Badgers with 319 yards rushing on 82 carries — not exactly eye-opening numbers. But Clement has only played in four games this season. He needs a breakout performance for the Badgers to eat up clock and keep Ohio State’s prolific offense off the field.

—LB Jack Cichy leads the Badgers with 35 tackles in five games. He has three-and-a-half tackles for a loss and forced one fumble.

—LB T.J. Watt is second on the team with 29 tackles and recorded a team-high 5.5 sacks. A big game against Ohio State can only add to Watt’s growing resume.

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