A Saturday of conference title games comes to a conclusion with the Big Ten Championship Game between the no. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes and no. 8 Wisconsin Badgers. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 EST on Saturday, December 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
Current betting odds list the Buckeyes as 16.5-point favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 55 points. Be sure to check out all of the college football betting odds for this week’s conference title games.
Remember when there was some uncertainty surrounding Ohio State heading into the season because Ryan Day was taking over for Urban Meyer? It seems like such a long time ago with the way the Buckeyes have cruised through the regular season undefeated. Ohio State’s closest win was an 11-point victory over Penn State a couple of weeks ago. Other than that, the Buckeyes have had little trouble knocking off every team on their schedule, including four teams that are playing for a conference championship this weekend.
Ohio State fully deserves their spot at the top of the College Football Playoff rankings. In fact, with a loss, there’s a chance the Buckeyes would still go to the 4-team playoff. Of course, the only way to keep their national championship hopes alive is to win the Big Ten title and remain undefeated.
As for Wisconsin, they began the season as favorites in the Big Ten West Division and ranked no. 12 in the country, so no one should be surprised to see them finish where most people expected. However, the Badgers did take a somewhat circuitous route to get to this point. Wisconsin endured back-to-back losses to Illinois and Ohio State in the middle of the season. But with four straight wins, including huge victories over the likes of Iowa and Minnesota, the Badgers finished 10-2 and winners of the Big Ten West.
Even without hopes of going to the CFP, the Badgers will be eager to take home their first Big Ten title since 2012. Since then, Wisconsin has won the West Division on three occasions, falling short in the conference title game each time, including losses in 2014 and 2017 to Ohio State. Wisconsin would like nothing more than to get redemption for those losses, especially if it means potentially knocking the Buckeyes out of the top-4.
Of course, the Badgers haven’t had much luck facing Ohio State in recent years. The Buckeyes have won seven straight meetings with the Badgers. That includes two previous Big Ten title game victories and a 38-7 win in Columbus in late October. The Badgers haven’t recorded a win over Ohio State since 2010.
Admittedly, Ohio State had a rather comfortable 31-point win over Wisconsin a little over a month ago. However, that game was in Columbus and was just 10-7 after the Badgers scored a touchdown early in the third quarter before the Buckeyes pulled away. I think Wisconsin will be more prepared to face Ohio State this time around. I’m not predicting an upset, but I think the Badgers will keep the final score within two touchdowns and beat the spread.
The Buckeyes are one of the few teams this season that has managed to slow down Jonathan Taylor and keep the Wisconsin rushing attack under wraps. But Taylor has found his groove once again, running for over 200 yards in three straight games immediately after the loss to OSU. The Buckeyes can’t be happy about having to face him again because he can punish small mistakes and turn them into big gains. Ohio State has also given up plenty of chunk yardage to Penn State and Michigan running backs in recent weeks, so I think Taylor has a chance to make a meaningful impact in this game.
Meanwhile, I think the Wisconsin passing attack will pose more of a threat to Ohio State than it did in October. Quarterback Jack Coan has had two of his better games the last two weeks. Remember, Wisconsin is playing with house money, so they can let Coan take chances down the field. Obviously, that’s not in Wisconsin’s DNA, but they do have a big-play receiver in Quinten Cephus to target on deep routes. The Badgers may be able to catch Ohio State by surprise with some deep passes, especially since the weather and wind won’t be a factor.
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin’s defense should have a better idea of what they’re up against after already facing Ohio State once. The Badgers actually did a nice job of limiting the OSU passing game in the first meeting. Keep in mind that Wisconsin has kept four shutouts this season, so there’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball. The Badgers could have also learned something from Penn State, who held the Buckeyes to a mere 28 points just two weeks ago.
In the end, it’s hard to beat a team as good as Wisconsin twice in the same season. It’s even more difficult to blow them out twice. Admittedly, I’d be more than a little shocked to see Ohio State lose this game. However, I think Wisconsin’s experience playing the Buckeyes earlier this year mixed with all of the pressure being on Ohio State will lead to a close game. If the spread were under two touchdowns, I met lean toward the Buckeyes. But at 16.5 points, I’ll take my chances with the Badgers beating the spread.