(5) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (13) Wisconsin Badgers (-4, 52.5 o/u)
The Ohio State Buckeyes still have a shot at the College Football Playoff. But that shot got a lot longer last weekend when QB J.T. Barrett was lost for the season with an ankle injury. (Barrett is the second Ohio State QB to suffer a season ending injury this year.)
Now, the Buckeyes need a win over the Wisconsin Badgers tonight in the Big Ten Championship game (8:17 p.m. Eastern) and a loss among one of the top-four teams. They also need to convince the committee that they should stay ahead of the likes of Baylor, Arizona, and Kansas State with an untested, third-string QB at the helm.
After Barrett broke his ankle last week, redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones became the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback for the biggest game of the year. Many pundits are predicting that the Selection Committee will keep the Buckeyes out of the playoffs no matter what now that Jones – who has thrown just 17 passes on the year – is under center.
“I think that’s wrong, if that happens,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, clearly upset. “Whether it’s Ohio State or some other team, I don’t know how you do that.”
That conversation is moot unless Ohio State can get by a dangerous Wisconsin team, though. The Badgers are 10-2 on the year and RB Melvin Gordon is having a season for the ages with 2,260 rushing yards and 26 TDs on 283 carries.
The Buckeyes have been decent against the run this year, holding opponents to just over 145 yards per game (40th in the country). However, they gave up 137 yards and three TDs (on just 18 carries) to Jeremy Langford when they squared off with Michigan State.
However, in that game, the Buckeyes were likely more worried about Connor Cook’s arm than Langford’s legs. Expect Ohio State to come out with a different game plan against the run-focused Badgers.
“In order to stop a running game, you’ve got to have great team defense, you’ve got to surround the ball, you’ve got to build a wall at the line of scrimmage, you’ve got to swarm tackles,” Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said.
Wisconsin is a four-point favorite in this game, and the total is at 52.5. Wisconsin is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games against Ohio State.
(Photo credit: Phil Roeder (flickr) “Hawkeyes Lose to Badgers” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo may appear cropped.)