In this Big 10 Championship preview, we will break down each side and give the all-important prediction at the end. This will be a comprehensive look at both sides of the ball and who has the advantage. We will also look at what happened during the first meeting this year and see if anything may or may not change. Round two for #1 Ohio State and #8 Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship, who you got?
How did both teams get here
The Ohio State Buckeyes were out to prove a point this year under the leadership of first time Head Coach Ryan Day. He is the first Ohio State coach to start 16-0 in his career. This team has pretty much boat raced every opponent they have faced. Penn State was the only close game, but that was because of three turnovers.
They led time of possession and total yards in that game but gave Penn State 14 free points. Except for a muffed punt against Michigan, that point spread could have been much worse. The Buckeyes finished up 12-0 and the BCS #1 team in the Nation. They are sitting in the driver seat for the Playoffs.
The Wisconsin Badgers had to do a little more work to get to this Championship game. It took them beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers on rivalry week to win the West Division. The Badgers first gaff was getting upset by Illinois the week before the Ohio State game. They hung tight and were able to recover thanks to Minnesota getting beat by Iowa to give them a chance. Wisconsin was able to take care of the Gophers in a driving snowstorm and beat them 38-7. This will be the third matchup for Ohio State and Wisconsin since 2014. Now, let’s take a look at how these teams match up against each other.
Ohio State offense
Ohio State brings in the #4 ranked offense in the Nation behind the duo of quarterback Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins. Fields has had a break out season and is a serious contender for the Heisman trophy. He has passed for 2,654 yards and ran for 470 yards. His touchdown output is one of the best in college football with 47 total scores.
Dobbins has been a workhorse out of the backfield in his Senior season. He ran for 1,657 yards and 21 total touchdowns. This team definitely goes as these two go. This receiver core is one of the most talented in the country. Chris Olave leads them with 705 yards and 11 touchdowns. But, you can’t forget about K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, freshman Garrett Wilson, or Austin Mack. This group is seasoned, and Ryan Day can scheme them open for big-time plays.
The only thing that has slowed down this Ohio State offense has been themselves. As long as they do not turn the ball over, they have been hard to stop. Ryan Day has been very good with game planning and mixing up what he is trying to accomplish. The Buckeyes did avoid an injury scare in the game against Michigan. Fields had missed a few plays when he got hit in his knee by his lineman. But, he came back after a few plays and made a ridiculous pass for a touchdown and put a dagger in the heart of Michigan.
The Wisconsin Badger defense is #9 in the Nation in points allowed. That didn’t help them too much in the first meeting when Ohio State put up 38 points on this team. Weather will not be able to help Wisconsin at all during this game like it did in the first half. Once the rain stopped in the first game, Ohio State was able to open up the offense. The key for Wisconsin is going to have to be stopping the running attack. If they can force Fields and the Buckeyes into long yardage on third down, this will give them a chance. If they can slow down Dobbins this time around, they may have a shot at making Ohio State one dimensional.
Paul Chryst will need to mix up his coverages between man and zone to have a shot at confusing Fields. They also need to be able to create pressure on the offense with that vaunted defensive line. If Wisconsin can not get hurt by play action, they should be able to hang in this game. The defense will need help from its offense and try to limit the possessions of the Ohio State offense. Keep the ball away basically. Edge: OSU
Ohio State defense
With the #4 points against defense in the Nation, Ohio State is led by phenom Chase Young. He was able to break the Buckeyes sack record this year, even though the NCAA suspended him for two games. It was a pretty bogus suspension as most would attest to, but he served it and came back for the Penn State game.
The Buckeye defense also has one of the best secondaries in college football. Possible first-round pick Jeff Okudah has been stellar at the Cornerback position. Opposite of him is Senior David Arnette, who came back after consults with pro scouts saying he needed more time to get better. The Buckeyes boast the #1 defense in total yards allowed per game. Wisconsin will have its hands full trying to score more than 17 points this time.
The biggest key for this defense is how their Linebackers play. The play of Tuf Borland, Baron Browning, Malik Harrison, and Pete Werner will be vital in stopping the vaunted running attack of Wisconsin. The defense was able to keep Jonathan Taylor in check with only giving up 52 yards rushing on the day. This was his lowest output of the season for a player who rushed for over 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns. As long as the defense can repeat their performance from September, this game will force Wisconsin to become one dimensional again.
1,700-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor leads this Wisconsin offense. He will look to rebound from his worst performance of the year against the Buckeyes. With 25 total touchdowns for Taylor, if Wisconsin can run play action, they will have a chance.
The offensive line needs to play better than the first meeting and somehow keep possible #1 pick Chase Young out of the backfield. The defensive line of Ohio State has perfect parts that compliment Young well. The Badgers will have their hands full again and need to wear them down. Ball control will be essential for this team. They also need to stay away from the turnovers and play ball possession.
Junior Jack Coan needs to be better in the passing game to help sustain drives for the Badgers. He only passed for 108 yards in the last meeting and that will not cut it. Wisconsin will need to figure out how to neutralize Young, but also figure out how they can beat the secondary of Ohio State. The wildcard on the Buckeyes defense that could be a target for the offense is if Shaun Wade can play or not. Wade has missed the past few games and has been filled in by Amir Riep who had an interception against the Wolverines last week. Either way, the Badgers have their work cut out for them again and need to figure out how to get Taylor involved. Edge: OSU
How will this gameplay out
Ryan Day has had this Ohio State team super focused and ready to go each week. The past few years under Urban Meyer, Ohio State has had a let down against some lower-level teams in the Big 10. This year was not the case. The Buckeyes have demolished almost every team this year, and it hasn’t been close.
Weather will not be a factor in this game like it was in September as we are in the dome at Lucas Oil Stadium. As long as the Buckeyes held on to the football, it will be on Wisconsin to stop them. I expect this team to play fast, up-tempo football like they have all year. This group has more significant goals, and this is the next step towards that goal of the BCS Playoffs.
Wisconsin will need to change the narrative that happened in September. This offense needs to lead time of possession to limit the Buckeyes offensive snaps. The defense needs to be able to limit Ohio State’s explosive plays. If they can keep them in third and long situations, they are controlling the line of scrimmage on defense. With that being said, Wisconsin will have to play the perfect game for them to have a chance. I’m not sure if the final score will be 38-7 again, but if the Badgers are not careful, it could be another trip to the woodshed for them. This should be a good rematch as they are playing in primetime on Fox. Prediction: OSU 45- UW 20