High-impact collisions

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Barreling in one direction is a souped-up truck that has turned an offense known for its smash-mouth running game into a bunch of joy rides into the end zone.

Heading directly back at it is a wide load stocked with potential professionals spread along the defensive line that likes nothing more than having its toughness tested and shutting down a rushing attack.

Both teams know there is a collision coming, and it's no secret where the intersection is on Saturday at Camp Randall. If Wisconsin or Ohio State is going to produce a signature win as the Big Ten schedule winds down, it will be up to the machine that inflicts the most damage at the line of scrimmage in what could amount to a series of high-impact crashes.

"It's just two tough teams going at it," defensive lineman John Simon said. "They're very physical and a very dominating team when they want to run the ball and when they get things going, they're hard to stop. We're going to have to make them one-dimensional on offense, stop that run early and do whatever we can to make it a passing game.

"Most physical team is going to win. That's usually what it is, they're going to try to run the football right down the middle, and it's our job to stop them. Whoever is tougher is going to win that battle."

Neither team has shown any inclination to tap the brakes lately, and the added momentum the Badgers and Buckeyes have been gaining has only dialed up the intensity in a rivalry that has become more heated over the last few years.

Certainly the fact that both programs have been battling for championships and BCS berths has played a part in that, but the physical, hard-nosed style they play with might have something to do with it as well.

The Badgers perhaps haven't been as consistent as usual running the ball this season, but star tailback Montee Ball has clearly found his footing as the season has progressed and has racked up 16 more touchdowns -- needing only one more to match the NCAA career record.

Ball scored twice against Ohio State a season ago -- but only one of them came on the ground as the Badgers were held to just 89 yards rushing in an upset loss. And the Buckeyes have proven more than capable of duplicating that formula, as they've regained their health up front and developed into the second-ranked rush defense in the Big Ten after a somewhat sloppy start to the season.

Ball had a bit of a sluggish start to the season as well, but he rolled to 198 yards and three scores a week ago in a prototypical Badgers win. The Buckeyes responded to their early problems by putting more faith in their secondary and dialing up more pressure in the backfield, a formula that will again be tested as they load the box to deal with Ball and sidekick James White.

"I feel like it gives us more opportunities to go out and stop the run, just basically tells us just to shut down the receivers and they can put more guys in the box and be able to make more plays," cornerback Travis Howard said. "When they played Indiana this past weekend, they only threw the ball [7 times].

"We know it's going to be a big run game, and we know it's going to come down to which team is most physical and able to stop the run."

The same is also true when the Buckeyes have the football, as they pack up the second-ranked rushing offense in the conference for the trip to Wisconsin.

Ohio State's approach on the ground is different, coming from the spread and relying first and foremost on quarterback Braxton Miller to turn the key in the ignition. But with the Badgers waiting with the No. 1 rushing defense in the Big Ten, there will be no shortage of collisions regardless of which way the traffic is flowing.

"Your team is either getting better or getting worse, and we're facing a team that is getting better," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "I'd like to think we've gotten better as the season progressed, so I think we're going to find out how good we are.

"Going into these environments, we've been into some tough ones already at Michigan State and Penn State, this will be a great measuring stick for how tough we really are."