INDIANAPOLIS — University of Wisconsin wide receiver A.J. Taylor has been ruled out for the season, ending a strong career with the Badgers.
Taylor injured his right leg last week against Minnesota, and will not play for the Badgers in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State or in the bowl game UW goes to.
Taylor was listed as questionable on Monday’s status report, but Friday’s status report cemented the end of his UW career.
Taylor is UW’s third-leading receiver this season, totaling 267 yards and two touchdowns on 23 catches. He is the only senior receiver on UW’s roster.
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The Kansas City, Mo., product played in 52 games for the Badgers since arriving in 2016. He had 89 catches for 1,316 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.
Offensive lineman David Moorman and cornerback Rachad Wildgoose remained questionable on Friday’s status report.
Who has the edge when the Badgers take on Ohio State for the Big Ten title?
WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
Since the Badgers were shut down offensively against Ohio State in October, the offense has been more diverse and open to taking shots down the field. Receiver Quintez Cephus (above) had 18 catches, 310 yards and three touchdown receptions in November as he and quarterback Jack Coan displayed a great connection. Cephus torched Minnesota’s secondary for two big plays, including a 47-yard touchdown, on the same third-quarter drive last week.
Cephus’ big day against the Gophers was aided by their insistence to slow down junior tailback Jonathan Taylor, but he still had three total touchdowns to improve to a nation-best 25 this season.
Along with the use of jet sweeps and jet motion to threaten to edges of run defenses, UW debuted end-around runs last week, one of which turned into a 26-yard touchdown for receiver Kendric Pryor. The added layers to the offense helped the Badgers average 36 points and 503.5 yards of offense over the past four games.
UW must do a better job against Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy-caliber defensive end Chase Young in this rematch. Young controlled the line, tallied four sacks, and forced Coan to fumble twice in October. Young leads the FBS with 16½ sacks.
Even if the Badgers contain Young, the Buckeyes’ defense possesses tremendous speed at the second and third levels. Linebacker Malik Harrison leads Ohio State with 63 total tackles and he has 16 for loss. Jeff Okudah is one of the top defensive backs in the Big Ten, and he has three interceptions and six pass breakups this season.
EDGE | PUSH
WHEN THE BUCKEYES HAVE THE BALL
J.K. Dobbins (above) was motivated to be the best running back on the field when these teams met in October, and he had one of his best games of the season against UW. Dobbins, a junior, racked up 163 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and added 58 yards on three catches.
He and sophomore quarterback Justin Fields were a nearly unstoppable tandem in Ohio State’s backfield — Fields had 28 yards and a touchdown rushing, and threw two touchdowns to receiver Chris Olave. When Dobbins occasionally comes off the field, backup Master Teague (780 yards, four touchdowns) has shown similar explosiveness and big-play ability. UW had success pressuring Fields, sacking him five times, and it will need a similar pass-rush effort to keep Fields uncomfortable in the rematch.
Questions remain regarding how well the Badgers defense can slow an option-based spread offense with a mobile quarterback like Ohio State’s. That scheme gave UW fits in the first matchup, and against Nebraska in the middle of November. Led by cornerback Caesar Williams’ four pass breakups, the Badgers’ secondary held its own against Minnesota’s pair of star receivers last week, and held the Gophers without a touchdown for nearly 52 game minutes. Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand were stellar on the interior defensive line against Minnesota, collapsing the line and stifling the inside run, and need to be again to slow down Dobbins.
EDGE | OHIO STATE
In all but one area, the Badgers’ special teams have also experienced a big turnaround in the past month.
Senior Zach Hintze (above) took over as the placekicker last week against Minnesota, made a short field goal and went 5-for-5 on point-after tries. He also made a 62-yard field goal to set a modern-era program record against Purdue.
UW pulled off a reverse on a kick return last week to gain a total of 56 yards and set up a short touchdown drive. The Badgers led the Big Ten in kickoff return average at 25.9 yards per return this season.
Senior punter Anthony Lotti is struggling as his career wraps up — over the past three games, his eight punts have averaged 35.3 yards.
Ohio State punt returner Garrett Wilson lost a fumble against Michigan, and its kick coverage has been average throughout the season.
EDGE | PUSH
Ryan Day has guided the Buckeyes to an unbeaten regular season in his first year. His offense has generated two Heisman Trophy candidates and made so many games blowouts that he could pull starters early and keep them fresh for a postseason run.
Co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison (above) and Jeff Hafley have maximized Young’s potential and have directed their unit to be one of college football’s best.
UW coach Paul Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph have done well creating new looks for the offense late in the season, but how they deploy those wrinkles against the Buckeyes will be key, as will defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s adjustments on defense.
EDGE | PUSH
Ohio State is all but assured to be one of the top two seeds in the College Football Playoff with a win over the Badgers, but UW has a good amount to gain as well.
A win over the Buckeyes almost definitely sends UW to the Rose Bowl, and gives it an outside shot at the Playoff.
Playing in the domed Lucas Oil Stadium, weather won’t be a factor like it was in the first game between these teams, but the Badgers will have to contend with Ohio State’s speed at an indoor facility.
EDGE | OHIO STATE
STATE JOURNAL'S PICK
UW’s offense has dramatically improved since the last time it played Ohio State, but the Buckeyes’ roster is just a notch above UW’s this season. If Ohio State continues to give the ball away, the Badgers have a chance, but the Buckeyes stay unbeaten in a relatively close game.
OHIO STATE 31, BADGERS 20
THE NUMBER (UW)
11.5: UW’s Zack Baun and Chris Orr are the only pair of teammates from a Power Five program to have 10 or more sacks each this season
THE NUMBER (OHIO STATE)
4: Fumbles lost in the past two weeks for OSU, which led to 13 points for its opponents
KEY STAT (OFFENSE)
Sacks allowed: UW finished second in the Big Ten with 18 sacks allowed, but five of those came against OSU. Allowing Coan time to find receivers will be essential in the rematch.
KEY STAT (DEFENSE)
Third-down percentage: The Buckeyes lead the Football Bowl Subdivision in converting 58.3 percent of third-down tries