On Saturday night, the Big 10 Championship Game takes center stage as the #9 Ohio State Buckeyes take on the undefeated, 5th ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Over the last decade, Ohio State has dominated this series. However, Wisconsin looks like a different animal this year as they have been steamrolling opponents on offense and smothering teams with their suffocating defense. This is going to be an exciting battle with a CFP spot on the line. Kickoff inside Lucas Oil Stadium is at 8 PM ET.
The last time these two teams played in the “post season,” Ohio State destroyed the Badgers 59-0. In fact, Ohio State has won 8 out of 10 games against Wisconsin and come into this matchup a touchdown favorite despite the Badgers being undefeated and higher ranked. The Badgers have lost 5 straight games to Ohio State and have not defeated them since 2010.
Ohio State (10-2) is coming off a 31-20 victory over Michigan in “The Game.” The Buckeyes scored 17 unanswered points and kept Michigan off the score board for the final quarter. Michigan had a 20-14 lead half way through the 3rd quarter before OSU went on their run. The Buckeyes have now won 3 straight games and look to springboard into the College Football Playoffs with a win over Wisconsin.
The Badgers (12-0) are the only undefeated team from the Big 10 and, as you know from reading my previews, are severely underrated. They are not a pretty or finesse team like the Buckeyes. In fact, they’re the traditional Big 10 team that smashes you in the face with their running game and suffocates you with their defense. Just ask the Minnesota Golden Gophers as they were destroyed 31-0 in the Paul Bunyan Axe game. Wisconsin will secure a CFP spot if they beat OSU in the Big 10 title game.
The spread opened with Ohio State favored by 6.5 points. Currently, the spread has gone up to 7 points in favor of the Buckeyes. The Over/Under opened at 53.5 points and has come down to 53 total points.
Ohio State is a powerhouse, but they do have problems against teams that can handle their pass rush and bull through their o-line. Just look back to the Iowa game where the Hawkeyes destroyed OSU 55-24. The next week, Iowa went to Wisconsin and lost 38-14 because the Badgers are a more physically imposing team.
This week, I expect Wisconsin to have success against the Buckeyes. I like their toughness in the trenches and I think that will give OSU problems. First, the Badgers defense only allows 12 points per game and they have a fantastic rush defense allowing just 80.5 yards per game. I believe Wisconsin will contain OSU’s running game led by Dobbins and force the Buckeyes to be more one-dimensional.
But, don’t think that will mean OSU can pass the ball at-will against the Badgers. Wisconsin only gives up 156 passing yards per game. Barrett is going to have to be near-perfect in this game and make more plays on the ground with his legs.
On the offense, Wisconsin averages 243 yards per game on the ground. They’re led by Johnathan Taylor who has 1,806 yards and 13 TD’s. The Badgers have a mauling offensive line that will be capable of handling the aggressive Buckeyes’ front four.
Ohio State is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games and 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games after winning against a conference foe. Wisconsin is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games, 6-3 ATS over their last 9 Big 10 games, 8-4 ATS this season and 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games as an underdog.
If this is truly Wisconsin’s year, then they will defeat the Buckeyes and head to the CFP as the conference’s best team. However, that remains a big “if.” Wisconsin has struggled mightily against Ohio State. But, something inside me is telling me that this team is not someone to sleep on if you are from Buckeyes nation. I’ve watched every Wisconsin game and this team rises to the occasion when needed.
They might not have the athletic talent that Ohio State does, but they do have enough talent to compete and potentially pull off the win. I believe Taylor will cause fits for Ohio State. For the team to have a real shot at winning, they will need QB Alex Hornibrook to make some big plays and not just be the game manager he was all season.
Ohio State comes into this game averaging 43 points on offense and allowing 19.8 points on defense. I don’t see these numbers being met this week. Wisconsin could hold the Buckeyes to the 25-27 point range while scoring the same.
I believe that the Badgers will keep the game close and give their best shot at revenge. I don’t see Ohio State winning by more than a touchdown. Barrett and company will struggle against this top tier defense. Wisconsin is built to grind it out and they won’t wither away under pressure like years past. Look for the Badgers to make plays on defense and get a few turnovers. I like the Badgers to pull off the upset 30-28.