Big Ten Championship Game, Indianapolis
|Matchup Preview | December 6, 2014|
|No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes|
| No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers|
Five Fast Facts About Wisconsin
1. When it comes to All-Big Ten awards, back Melvin Gordon was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year while offensive linemen Kyle Costigan and Rob Havenstein were named first-team all-conference choices along with linebacker Derek Landisch.
2. Gordon’s 2,260 yards this season are the most in Big Ten history, besting another former Wisconsin back, Ron Dayne (2,109, 1996). He has 20 runs of 30 yards or more.
3. UW won 10 games in the regular season for just the fourth time in school history. The Badgers also did so in 1998, 2006 and 2010. It is the ninth double-digit victory season in school history and sixth in the last 10 seasons.
4. Since 2006, Wisconsin is 32-7 (.821) in games played in November and December.
5. Including limiting Nebraska to 180 total yards, the Badgers have held four opponents to fewer than 200 yards this season. Only Clemson (5) has done so more often. Wisconsin’s opponents are averaging just 4.36 yards per play, the fifth-best mark in the country. Wisconsin has allowed just 99 plays of 10-plus yards this season, the fewest allowed by an FBS defense.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. WISCONSIN RUSH DEFENSE
Not much should change in this regard with the injury to J.T. Barrett, as Cardale Jones is at least a comparable running threat, though the new QB’s stride is longer and he’s not quite as agile as Barrett. He can scoot, though, so the Buckeyes will keep the quarterback run and read plays as a focal point of the offense. A lot will also be put on the plate, you’d imagine, of Ezekiel Elliott, who has become a much more dependable runner the last few weeks of the season. Wisconsin doesn’t have a star along the lines of Chris Borland in the middle of the field, but the Badgers are allowing just 103.8 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry despite facing Ameer Abdullah and David Cobb. The Buckeyes will have to keep at it but should get yards. EDGE: OHIO STATE
WISCONSIN RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
The way Ohio State has ceded yards on the ground in the second half of the season, this has to be a concern for the Buckeyes. Ohio State was manhandled at times by physical rushing attacks from Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan, while Indiana used speed to hit some big ones on the Buckeyes. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin rushing attack and Melvin Gordon bring both the table. Wisconsin still uses its array of huge offensive linemen to get a push up front, while Gordon is strong enough to get through arm tackles, agile enough to make people miss in the open field and fast enough not to be caught once he’s free. The nation’s leading rusher will be the toughest challenge of the year for OSU if fully healthy (he banged up an ankle vs. Minnesota), though backup Corey Clement is a good runner as well. EDGE: WISCONSIN
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. WISCONSIN PASS DEFENSE
You have to think Ohio State will limit what it asks Jones to do in the throw game, likely providing him with a number of rollout passes, screens and jet sweeps – very similar to what was given to Barrett in the team’s first game vs. Navy. Jones throws a very good deep ball, as well, so that might be part of the equation if Wisconsin gets too aggressive toward the line. The Badgers have been very good against the pass this year, allowing just 10 passing TDs and an opposing completion percentage of 46.4. Jones should make some plays – and watch for Jalin Marshall throwing out of the wildcat – but the overall edge going in has to go to the Badgers. EDGE: WISCONSIN
WISCONSIN PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
After missing the first four games with what has alternately been described as a shoulder injury and a case of the “yips” throwing the ball, Joel Stave has come back and is leading the Badgers’ passing attack with his usual efficiency. Stave played in every Big Ten game and went 7-0 as a starter, throwing for seven touchdowns and a single interception in the last seven games. He’s very good in the play-action game. There’s no target quite as talented as Jared Abbrederis, but with a team-high 44 catches for 651 yards, sophomore Alex Erickson is becoming a dependable wideout. EDGE: OHIO STATE
Wisconsin has always had strong-legged kickers, and Rafael Gaglianone is keeping that tradition alive with a 51-yard make among his 17 converted field goals in 20 tries this year. The net punt isn’t very good, so Ohio State will try to break something here with Marshall. Kenzel Doe is among the best return men in the country, too, so OSU has to be ready. EDGE: EVEN
Wisconsin finds itself in a familiar position, with a chance to play spoiler against Ohio State. The Badgers ended OSU’s streak of 17 victories in 2003, its long two-year-plus home winning streak a year later and famously dealt the only loss to Ohio State’s 2010 team. The Badgers seem to thrive in these situations, and they nearly did it again in 2012, taking that unbeaten team to overtime before the Buckeyes prevailed. On the other hand, Ohio State has plenty to play for this week. After the Michigan game, OSU linebacker Darron Lee said, “The mission remains the same,” even after the loss of Barrett to injury. It would be very unlike the Buckeyes not to be ready. EDGE: EVEN
This is one of the toughest games to predict in quite some time at Ohio State. So many factors both on the field and off are at play, and it’s fair to say the Buckeyes won’t be at full strength with Barrett out. Whichever team gets off to a fast start will have a huge advantage, especially if that’s Ohio State, which surely would like to get some confidence instilled within Jones as quickly as possible. This Ohio State team has been impressive in how it has responded to adversity all season, and but Wisconsin is also on a roll. The way Wisconsin is playing and with OSU now without a lot of margin for error on offense, our staff consensus is to take the Badgers. WISCONSIN 31-25
The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Kane Anderson, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager, Mark Rea, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams