- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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The silly season can wait. With the Big Ten title game just two short days away, and plenty of time when it’s over to talk about coaching searches, let’s focus on Wisconsin and Ohio State.
1. Heisman pose vs. The Shrug: The Big Ten’s top offensive player lines up opposite the league's top defender with a conference title on the line. Sure, the marquee lost a little bit of star power with the injury to the league’s top freshman, J.T. Barrett, but that won’t diminish the entertainment value of seeing Melvin Gordon collide with Joey Bosa. Gordon and Bosa, both freakish athletes, officially won Big Ten offensive and defensive player of the year awards on Tuesday night. With Barrett now out of the picture, the pressure is on Bosa to perform. The sophomore is going to have to be at his best to lead a defensive unit that has struggled some at stopping elite running backs -- and Wisconsin’s offensive line might be the best he’s faced all season. On the flip side, Gordon might be able to win over a few more Heisman voters if he can put together another vintage performance against a club with no shortage of talented defenders alongside Bosa.
2. Coaching connections: Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen worked for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman joked about sleeping on the couch of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda when they were in college together. In a profession that typically demands switching jobs and working with new faces for different programs throughout a career, it’s no surprise for there to be ties between Wisconsin and Ohio State. But there clearly won’t be many secrets with Andersen facing off against Meyer or Herman trying to outsmart his buddy Aranda. It could come down to which staff can come up with the best wrinkles, and it will almost certainly come down to whether the Badgers or Buckeyes are able to adjust on the fly in a high-pressure setting in Indianapolis. But more than just having some buddies on the other sideline, what should make Saturday night so fascinating is the impressive collection of some of the most respected names in coaching that Wisconsin and Ohio State have collected over the last couple seasons.
3. Bad blood?: Before the questions shifted to Michigan State as an unofficial secondary rival for Ohio State these days, Urban Meyer was getting them a year ago about Wisconsin. Considering the competitive games the programs have played recently and some of the high stakes that have accompanied those matchups, Meyer and the Buckeyes largely gave the Badgers the same treatment as the Spartans, with former center Corey Linsley calling it a “physical war.” For Meyer’s part, he downplayed any bad blood between the programs and then instead called it “intense respect,” while customarily refusing to refer to anybody other than Michigan as a rival for his program. But however it’s referred to, the series has been extremely entertaining recently, with the last three games all decided by 7 points or less, with one going to overtime and another decided in the closing seconds on a come-from-behind bomb from Braxton Miller in 2011. The Big Ten can only hope for another competitive classic between the two programs, particularly since there wasn’t one on the schedule during the regular season this year.
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