We move on to the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night, as Wisconsin hopes to keep their perfect season intact against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The last time Wisconsin and Ohio State met in the Big Ten Championship, it wasn’t a pretty result for the Badgers. Ohio State blasted Wisconsin in 2014 for a 59-0 rout in Indianapolis. Wisconsin couldn’t even manage to get the ball in Ohio State territory, never mind come close to scoring any points.
It was as dominant of a performance that you could find in a football game. The Badgers wanted to get a big game out of Melvin Gordan, but the Buckeyes played him brilliantly. Wisconsin will get their opportunity to rewrite that story on Saturday night. Win and the Badgers are in. Ohio State win and they’d need a lot of help elsewhere to find a way into the playoff. The only 2 loss team that should have an inside path to the playoff is Auburn.
The Buckeyes have losses against Oklahoma and Iowa. They didn’t just lose to Iowa; the Hawkeyes blew them away by a score of 38-14. It was a shocking result for the Buckeyes. They took the Hawkeyes lightly, but probably should have talked to Penn State before the game. That leaves Michigan and Michigan State as their best wins on the year. I don’t feel that Alabama belongs in the playoff with their best wins coming against LSU and Mississippi State, so I can’t say I’d like Ohio State in the final. A win over Wisconsin would be a good look, though.
You can find some similarities to this Wisconsin team to the one in 2014. The Badgers had a mediocre quarterback at the helm, and we can’t say that they’ve improved in that department. Conversely, they had a really good running back in Melvin Gordan, and Wisconsin have an elite runner in Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor has rushed for 1,806 yards to lead the Big Ten. The difference between then and now is that Wisconsin might have something to prove. They’ve been getting disrespected and ignored all season. Their schedule hasn’t been the toughest, no, but they have no blemishes on their record. This defense also may be better than what they had in 2014. They’ve been making it impossible on offenses to pass the football. J.T. Barrett must find a way to pierce the Wisconsin secondary. If the Badgers make Ohio State one-dimensional, they will have a case to pull the upset. Head below for our free Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Big Ten Championship pick.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Betting Odds:
Ohio State -6(-110)
vs. Wisconsin +6(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Pick:
J.T. Barrett was injured in an unconventional way last week in Ann Arbor. A cameraman bumped into Barrett on the sidelines, hitting his knee and doing enough to give him a limp. He underwent minor knee surgery this week for a scope on his meniscus. Despite the procedure, Barrett will be starting in the Big Ten Championship. The question will be whether what kind of shape he’s going to be in. His knee may be fine early on, but all it can take is one tweak and he’s limping around. Dwayne Haskins stepped in for Barrett when he was unable to keep going. He threw for 94 yards and kept the ball away from the Wolverines. Haskins has 4 touchdowns and 1 interception on the year, but those touchdowns came against UNLV, Rutgers, and Illinois.
If Ohio State must go to Haskins here, it’s going to make everyone recall what Cardale Jones did for the Buckeyes as a backup. I think with Barrett’s knee, his mobility is going to be limited. Part of what makes him so dangerous is his ability to move around, but that element of his game could be gone if his knee flares up and starts to bother him. Barrett has thrown for 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, while rushing for 683 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. The Buckeyes are averaging 43.8 points per game this year, with a lot of those points coming against bad defenses. UNLV? Rutgers? Illinois? Maryland? Yuck.
The Michigan defense had Ohio State boggled up, but they made adjustments and got by for a 31-20 victory. The Wolverines are one of the younger teams in the country. Their defense is good but have a lot of inexperience at key positions. Wisconsin may give them even more push back in the Big Ten Championship against the Wisconsin D. The Badgers are allowing just 12 points per game, 2nd in the FBS. They are 2nd against the pass and 1st against the run, with just 80.5 yards allowed per game. That is 10 yards better than 2nd.
I think the Badgers are going to frustrate Ohio State in this one on defense. The most points they’ve given up this season is 24 points. In their last eight games, they allowed just 11.25 points per game. If Barrett’s knee bothers him at all, it’s going to take away a big percentage of what Ohio State wants to do on offense. This is the second consecutive week that the Buckeyes have had to deal with a physical, aggressive defense. Meanwhile, Wisconsin had a “bye” week against the Minnesota Gophers. Wisconsin will be motivated as they look for respect against a big boy in the Big Ten. This current team has watched that 59-0 beatdown and will come ready to play. I’d take the points in the Big Ten Championship.
PICK: WISCONSIN +6 (-110)