No. 1 Ohio State set for ‘dogfight’ vs. No. 8 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

Wisconsin gave Ohio State a scare earlier this season for one of the few times the top-ranked Buckeyes were challenged in the second half of a game.

The No. 8-ranked Badgers will try to finish the job this time when they play Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Ohio State (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) leads the nation in points per game (49.9) and scoring margin (38.1) but found itself in a tussle with the Badgers on Oct. 26 in Columbus. Ohio State led 10-7 in third quarter before reeling off 28 unanswered points for a 38-7 victory.

“We absolutely respect these guys,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “They’re one of the best-coached teams in America, toughest teams in America. They run the football, they’re very, very well-coached on both sides of the ball, and we were in a dogfight in that game.”

Indeed, the loss to the Buckeyes was a wakeup call for Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten), which earned its second crack at Ohio State by beating Minnesota 38-17 for the West Division crown last Saturday for their fourth-straight win since visiting Ohio Stadium.

“I certainly think there’s a sense of eagerness or excitement that you’ve done all that you can, and you get a right to play in this game,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said.

The Badgers must find a way to get running back Jonathan Taylor untracked vs. the Buckeyes. He ranks second nationally with 1,761 yards (6.31 yards/carry) and has 5,932 yards in his career, but his two previous encounters with OSU were nightmares, especially compared to counterpart J.K. Dobbins.

In the 2017 conference game, won by the Buckeyes 27-21, Taylor had 41 yards on 15 carries while Dobbins gained 174 yards on 17 rushes. In this season’s game, Taylor’s 20 carries netted him 52 yards, 20 of which came on one early run. Meanwhile, Dobbins also ran 20 times but had 163 yards.

Dobbins is coming off a 211-yard, four touchdown (both career highs) performance in the Buckeyes’ 56-27 win over Michigan.

“I think J.K.’s a great runner,” Taylor said. “I don’t think a lot of people talk about how he finishes his runs. He’s very physical.”

Day expects to have cornerback Shaun Wade back after he missed the Michigan game with an injury. Also, quarterback Justin Fields, who left the last game briefly after aggravating a medial collateral ligament in his left knee, said he’ll be ready.

“In my mind I’m playing on Saturday and I don’t care how much it hurts,” he said Tuesday, admitting to reporters that his left knee still hurts and that he will wear the same kind of brace used by offensive linemen come gameday.

A win would not only give Ohio State its third straight Big Ten title, but it would secure one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. Because of their dominating season, the Buckeyes will likely be selected even with a loss.

The Badgers need a win to stay in consideration for the Rose Bowl.

They are 2-3 in the conference championship. In addition to losing to the Buckeyes in 2017, Wisconsin famously lost 59-0 to OSU in 2014 when the Buckeyes went on to win the first CFP championship.

–Field Level Media

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