Game 13 Recap: Big Ten Championship Game – Ohio State 34 – Wisconsin 21
Ohio State heading into this game as a 16.5 point favorite, and probably some confidence knowing they are playing a team that they beat already in the season at home by 31 points. Wisconsin came into this game with nothing to lose, and had improved since the last time they played the Buckeyes, winning 4 straight, and clinching the division with the win against Minnesota in the snow.
Wisconsin started with the ball, and moved with power, something they were not able to do in Columbus. A few arm tackles later, Jonathan Taylor busted out a 44 yard touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead. Ohio State got the ball, and drove down as well, and went for it on 4th down on the Wisconsin 34, but were stopped at the line of scrimmage. The teams traded punts the next series, but then Wisconsin started to control the clock, and scored another touchdown on a 14 play drive into the second quarter to extend their lead 14-0.
Ohio State responded, and drove down the field once more, but as they got near the redzone, Justin Fields fumbled, and the Badgers were able to recover. The defense stepped up for the Buckeyes and forced the Badgers to punt for the second time. The offense took advantage and responded finally with a touchdown of their own with a JK Dobbins run to cut the lead 14-7 and around a minute left in the half. Most teams would have sat on it and carried the lead into the half, but Taylor busted out a big run to get the Badgers near the Ohio State 30 yard line. Then, a big pass play to Cephus, which was caught just short of the goal line. On the next play, the Badgers rushed it in and led 21-0 going into the half.
The Buckeyes started with the ball, trailing, but the team never waivered and seemed to flip a switch. The went off with a 5 play drive with a touchdown pass to Jeremy Ruckert, who caught a nice 1 handed pass in the endzone. The defense responded and off a bad ssnap to the punter, the Buckeyes got the back back in Wisconsin territory, but had to settle for a field goal, and cut the lead 21-17.
Wisconsin got the ball back, and started a drive of their own for 44 yards, and aided by some unsportsmanlike penalties from the Buckeyes, but missed a field goal to extend their lead. Ohio State responded and scored another touchdown, a pass from Fields to KJ Hill, who powered his way into the endzone, and the Buckeyes took their first lead of the game 24-21. The Buckeyes scored on their next 2 possessions, and finished with a punt. Wisconsin drove to try to cut into the lead, but Coan was stopped short of the goal line from Josh Proctor as time expired, and the confetti fell in favor of the Scarlet and Gray.
Justin Fields earned himself a trip to the Heisman ceremony with his last 2 weeks of performances, and finished with 299 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. Even on a bad knee, he carried the ball for a yard, which was negated some yardage by some sacks.
Jk Dobbins was as reliable as ever, the only other player who touched the ball as a runner, and finished with 172 yards and 1 touchdowns, outrushing Jonathan Taylor once more despite having a big first half against the Buckeyes.
KJ Hill makes history as the leading receptions leader in Ohio State history, and caught 7 catches for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chris Olave paced the receivers with yardage on 5 catches and 93 yards. Ben Victor was the only other player with multiple catches with 3, and had 55 yards, none bigger than the 28 yard catch that kept Ohio States drive on a third and long play in the second half.
The second half was the turning point in this game. Ohio State trailed 21-7 in the first half, and the doubt started to creep in the minds of the fans, but the players and coaches were not worried. They started the second half with the ball, and scored on all but one drive, their last drive, to outscore Wisconsin 27-0 in the second half alone, and holding them to 138 yards in the second half. This team can be scary when they are clicking, and Fields played impressively after a shaky start, but the offensive line stepped up and opened up holes in the run game, and the defense was able to get a spark with the return of Okudah, who limited the touches for Wsiconsin’s Cephus.
Star of the Game
Justin Fields. Fields won the MVP of the game. He did not look focused in the first half, which was part of the issues with the movement of the ball for the Buckeyes, but he had 299 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, and playing on a bad knee. He now gets some time to rest and relax after his award shows, but the Buckeyes will need him at his best for the playoff. Not to take away from JK Dobbins who had 172 yards and a touchdown in this game, the Buckeyes flipped the switch in the second half.
Ohio State beat Wisconsin after a slow first half, but is still undefeated, and won the Big Ten Championship. A 13-0 record, and a conference championship, they are a lock for the playoff, the first time since 2016. The debate will be who gets the number 1 spot. Ohio State has been number 1 for the last two weeks and is viewed by the committee as one of the most consistent teams in the country, preforming well on both offense and defense. LSU added another top 10 win as well against Georgia, so their argument for number 1 is valid as well. It’s a good feeling though to know Ohio State gets a chance to compete for a National Championship after being left out the last two seasons.
Ohio State (13-0) will clinch a spot in the playoff, and awaiting their next opponent on Selection Sunday, which could be LSU, Clemson, or Oklahoma.
Wisconsin (10-3) will await their next opponent on Selection Sunday.
Photo credit: Fox News