Walking the beat: Ohio State

This week Patrick Maks of stops by to answer a few questions about the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes, who will host the Badgers at Ohio Stadium this weekend. Thanks again to Patrick for lending us his insight on the Buckeyes!
Ohio State is 4-0, with wins over Buffalo, Cal, San Diego State and Florida A&M. But with Braxton Miller hurting for most of those games, what do we really know about the Buckeyes so far? Is this team good enough to win a national title? What do you think their ceiling is?
Patrick Maks: Even with Braxton Miller hurt, I think we have a pretty good idea of what this team is four games through the season. Ohio State is a very good football team. But I'm not sure it's a great one -- at least not yet. The Buckeyes have slapped around undoubtedly inferior competition so it's been nearly impossible to genuinely answer some questions surrounding them. California, the only team to pose a somewhat competent threat to Ohio State, put up more than 500 yards of offense on its defense. Is Ohio State good enough to win a national title right now? I don't think so. Could they be in eight games? Certainly. Saturday's game against Wisconsin is the first real test.
Ok, so you're Urban Meyer. Braxton Miller hasn't started in about 2.5 games, and Kenny Guiton has been on fire. Who starts if you're the coach? Why?
PM: If I'm Urban Meyer (and, man, sometimes I wish I was for that paycheck he gets) I start Braxton Miller. He is clearly the athlete of the two and does things that Kenny Guiton simply can't. Let's not forget, Miller began the season as potentially one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman. Guiton, like you said, has played out of his mind. I think a lot of people knew he was talented but the kid looks like a seasoned veteran out there. In fact, there are certain things he does better than Miller. He's much better at running the option, he has a better feel for distributing the ball and, arguably, he might even be a better leader. That said, Miller's leaps and bounds a more dynamic runner and a more polished passer. It's true -- Guiton could start for Ohio State. But that doesn't mean he should. Miller's just better.
Obviously Miller and Guiton have drawn a lot of attention this season, but what are some storylines to keep in mind on Ohio State's defense? How have they performed so far this season?
PM: I touched on this a little earlier, but the case of Ohio State's defense as interesting one. They gave up 20 points to Buffalo in the season opener and looked "meh" throughout that whole game. Against San Diego State, the Buckeyes looked stifled the Aztecs. A week later, against a good offense, Ohio State surrendered more than 500 yards of total offense and 34 points. But California is hardly Texas A&M, hardly Oregon, hardly Clemson. In the Buckeyes' one real test on defense, they were shaky. Granted, the pace of that game had a lot to do with the absurd amount of yardage amassed by both squad.
Taking away the quarterbacks, what's Ohio State's biggest strength and their biggest weakness this season?
PM: Biggest strength: the running backs/offensive line. Ohio State boasts three running backs that could start probably anywhere in the country in Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith. They also have a handful of young backs who could carry the load if asked to. All of that, of course, is thanks to a constant push by a veteran offensive line. Biggest weakness: the linebackers. Ohio State isn't necessarily bad at this position (far from it -- Ryan Shazier is one of the best in the conference) but they're thin in terms of depth. Aside from Shazier, starting middle linebacker Curtis Grant is relatively inexperienced and so is outside linebacker Josh Perry. Behind the three of them? Freshmen and sophomores with little to no playing time. If I'm the Buckeyes, that's a scary thing to think about considering Wisconsin's duo of James White and Melvin Gordon.
Finally, how is this game going to go down? Who wins?
PM: Really, I'm never sure who to pick in this game because I feel like anything can happen. I literally still can't understand how Ohio State won in 2011 and Wisconsin put up an incredibly gutty performance last year in Madison. This bout is always a classic and the teams' respective strengths, weaknesses make it that way. I do, however, the Buckeyes are a bit more talented than the Badgers. With Urban Meyer at the helm, it's hard to pick against Ohio State -- especially in the Horseshoe and especially at night. Honestly, I think if the Buckeyes were playing at Camp Randall, the Badgers would come out with the win. That obviously isn't the case. I'm going to say Ohio State win, 31-24.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.