MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has left no stone unturned this week in his pursuit of knowledge on Ohio State’s high-octane offense. He even acknowledged turning to a couple former Badgers coaches for their advice.
During a radio interview Thursday morning on The Big 1070 in Madison, Aranda said he spoke with former Wisconsin co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash on Sunday night and former Wisconsin linebackers coach Andy Buh on Monday night.
“They were both very giving with info and kind of gave me some tips that they had and did last year and everything,” Aranda said.
Ash now serves as defensive coordinator at Arkansas, while Buh is the defensive coordinator at California. The two were both on Wisconsin’s staff last season when Ohio State escaped with a 21-14 overtime victory in Camp Randall Stadium. The Buckeyes were held to 236 yards of total offense, and quarterback Braxton Miller completed 10 of 18 passes for 97 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Miller also ran 23 times for just 48 yards — a yards-per-carry average of 2.1. It was his lowest passing output of the season and his second-lowest rushing performance.
Aranda sounded grateful for the advice Ash and Buh provided because both are preparing for key games this week. Arkansas plays host to No. 10 Texas A&M, and Cal travels to face No. 2 Oregon.
This season, Ohio State ranks fourth nationally in scoring offense (52.5 points per game) and sixth in rushing offense (311.0 yards). The Buckeyes’ offense has thrived with backup quarterback Kenny Guiton the past two games, but starter Braxton Miller is expected to play Saturday against Wisconsin after missing two weeks with a knee injury.
Aranda said that, despite the input from Ash and Buh, Ohio State’s offense still looked different this season.
“It’s much more spread and much more down the field throws and a lot of that has to do with (Guiton),” Aranda said. “Now they’re getting guys back, so we have to look at the two-back formation, all the option plays, the triple option that they did last year, which was a big part of it when Braxton was in the core.
“There’s two offenses there is really what it is. You’ve just got to have answers for when they show up on Saturday or if they do.”
Badgers head coach Gary Andersen said he did not have a problem with Aranda reaching out to former Wisconsin coaches and praised his defensive coordinator for his extensive research.
“Anytime you have a relationship with coaches, which coach Aranda does with those guys, they’ll come back and communicate with each other and share some information, talk about it,” Andersen said following Thursday’s practice. “He’s very thorough now. He’s thorough at everything he does. It’s a good part of it. I don’t think that’s unnatural in the coaching profession to reach out and do that. It’s a big part of what Dave does.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer noted Wednesday that Miller would “probably start” following a couple solid days of practice. Andersen said he expected to see both quarterbacks in the game, though not on the field at the same time.
“I think with the backs that they have, they’re back at full strength at running back,” he said. “The things I anticipate is two-back, more triple option. Some of the stuff they did a year ago. Both quarterbacks run it very well and they’ve been effective at that in the past. I would expect that. May be wrong, but we have prepared a little bit down those lines.”
Ohio State’s offense certainly has excelled during the non-conference portion of its schedule. The Buckeyes lead the country in first-quarter points and have outscored opponents 102-14 in the opening frame. Andersen said earlier in the week he had never seen such a one-sided point differential for a single quarter.
“They’re fast starters without question,” he said Thursday. “The teams that they’ve played have been ready to play. Ohio State’s executed at a very high level. Last week I think they got the ball in field position that was unbelievable for their first four or five series.
“But Ohio State took advantage of it and scored touchdowns when they needed to. So they’re a quick starting team. I think there’s no question about that. It’ll be a big part of his game.”
Injury updates: Andersen said center Dallas Lewallen (leg) would miss Saturday’s game, which means Dan Voltz will earn his first career start. Wide receivers Kenzel Doe and Jeff Duckworth, along with reserve safety T.J. Reynard also will be out.
There is good news on the injury front, however. Andersen said cornerback Peniel Jean and outside linebacker Brendan Kelly would be fine. Inside linebacker Derek Landisch also will return after missing time with an ankle injury.
The status of all-Big Ten tight end Jacob Pedersen still remains somewhat of a mystery. Pedersen sprained his MCL last week against Purdue.
“He’s progressing daily,” Andersen said, “so we expect him to be involved.”