Game Preview: Big Ten Football Championship
Host Jeremy Ganes and analysts Caleb Schweiger and Josh Portney take an inside look at each of the biggest conference championship games in college football this weekend.
It goes without saying that this game means everything for both sides. It’s also safe to say that Ohio State, which has run through every opponent it’s faced almost effortlessly, needs this win to secure its spot in the College Football Playoff. As for Wisconsin, this is a chance to avenge its 38-7 loss against this same Buckeyes team back in October. You could also begin to make a College Football Playoff case for the Badgers if they can pull off the upset. Let's take a quick look into each side.
On one hand, you have the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country in Ohio State. The Buckeyes really haven’t been challenged all season, as the closet game they’ve played was against Penn State a few weeks ago. Even in that game, Ohio State still managed to win by 11, thanks to dominant performances from both J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young, who have been two of the best players in the entire country.
Dobbins, over the past couple weeks, has cemented himself as the best running back in both the Big Ten and all of college football: a title that was originally held by Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. In Ohio State’s last two games, Dobbins recorded over 350 rushing yards and six touchdowns against good Penn State and Michigan defenses.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes have been equally dominant. They’re led by junior Chase Young, who has put up 16½ sacks this season even after missing two games to suspension. Young recorded four sacks the last time Ohio State played Wisconsin, and even when Young was silenced last week against Michigan, Ohio State still won by 29 points. This years’ Ohio State team could be of its best all-time, and the Buckeyes are now just one game away from earning a shot at the national championship.
On the other sideline is the Wisconsin Badgers, which had to battle back for most of the second half of the season just to get to this point. The Badgers had to overcome an early season upset against Illinois, which came when they were ranked sixth in the country. After a loss to Ohio State the next week, the Badgers won out their next four games to battle back for the Big Ten West crown. This stretch included two crucial wins over Iowa and Minnesota. The Iowa game was a close battle to the very end, but Wisconsin managed to pull through with 250 rushing yards from Taylor. The Minnesota game was all-or-nothing for Wisconsin. Whichever team won that game would be playing in the Big Ten Championship. With the whole country counting them out, the Badgers dominated in Minnesota, axing the Golden Gophers with a 38-17 victory.
Offensively, the Badgers are led by Jonathan Taylor, who almost has more rushing yards than quarterback Jack Coan has passing yards. The problem for the Badgers is that Taylor only had 52 rushing yards in their 38-7 loss against Ohio State, so Wisconsin is going to have to find a way to better use Taylor against a stiff Buckeyes defense.
When you get down to it, it’s tough to make a real case for the Badgers here. It’s not because they are bad, but rather because this Ohio State team is historically dominant. Other than the Penn State game, Ohio State has had an absolute breeze of a season, and, of course, that includes the last time these two teams met in October. Expect similar results in this one, as Ohio State moves on to the College Football Playoff, while Wisconsin prays for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Wisconsin 13
Logan Bourandas is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.