Big Ten Championship Game Preview: Ohio State vs. Northwestern

Story posted December 18, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Alex Rocco

Championship weekend is here and in the Big Ten we see a matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats.

Ohio State comes into this matchup after the Big Ten made some rules changes that would allow the Buckeyes to be eligible for this game. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 4 and come into the game with a 5-0 record.

The Buckeyes have an elite offense averaging around 47 points per game. The unit is led by Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Fields. Fields has passed for 1,407 yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season. On the ground, Fields has an impressive 239 yards and five touchdowns. Fields was named the Big Ten quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year.

The running game is the weak spot of the offense, however it is still very good, with Master Teague III and Trey Sermon as the head backs. Teague III has 426 yards and six touchdowns on 87 carries, while Sermon on just 55 carries has piled up 344 yards and one touchdown.

Ohio State has two outstanding wide receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave who have been nothing short of dominant all season. Wilson has 34 catches, 572 yards and five touchdowns and as for Olave, he has 36 catches 528 yards, and five touchdowns. If Fields is passing the ball, there’s a good chance that it is going to these two as they have hauled in 70 of Fields’ 107 completions.

The Buckeyes defense has been solid this season giving up around 23 points per game.

The defense has the defensive back of the year in the Big Ten conference in Shaun Wade. Wade has 15 tackles, three pass deflections and two interceptions. Cornerback Sevyn Banks has also played well with five pass deflections.

Superstar defensive lineman Chase Young decided to go pro, leaving a gaping hole on the defensive line. However, guys such as Zach Harrison and Tommy Togiai have stepped up big time. Harrison has recorded four tackles-for-loss and two sacks while Togiai has tallied three and a half tackles-for-loss and three sacks.

At linebacker, the Buckeyes feature dynamic playmakers in Pete Werner and Baron Browning. Werner has recorded 32 tackles and one sack while Browning has 22 tackles and two pass deflections on the season.

If you said that Northwestern would be in the Big Ten championship game after the Wildcats finished just 3-9 last season, some would think you’re are crazy. However, here they are.

The Wildcats enter the game ranked No. 14 with a record of 6-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of Michigan State.

Northwestern is not like most dominant teams as they do not have that electric offense as they average just 25 points per game. The offense is led by Peyton Ramsey who has been inconsistent this season. Ramsey has passed for 1,218 yards nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Ramsey also has added 169 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

At running back for the Wildcats, Drake Anderson and Isaiah Bowser lead the way. Anderson has had a good season rushing for 256 yards and two touchdowns on 62 carries. While Anderson has played well, the same cannot be said for Bowser who on 77 carries has just 229 yards and one touchdown.

The Wildcats have two solid playmakers on the outside in Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Kyric McGowan. Chiaokhiao-Bowman has 30 catches for 344 yards and four touchdowns on the season and as for McGowan, he also has 30 catches but for 333 yards and has yet to find the endzone.

Northwestern has an excellent defense; their opponents are averaging just 15 points per game against them.

The heart and soul of this defense are its linebackers, Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher. Fisher took home the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year as he recorded 65 tackles, three and a half tackles-for-loss, two pass deflections, and one interception. Gallagher had 65 tackles, nine and a half tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two pass deflections and one interception.

On the defensive line, Eku Leota has enjoyed a breakout season posting numbers of four sacks and five and a half tackles for-loss.

In the secondary, freshman Brandon Joseph has been excellent, winning the Defensive Freshman Player of the Year with stats of 44 tackles, five interceptions and one pass deflection. Cornerback Greg Newsome has been just as good, if not better, as he has nine pass deflections and one interception this season.

The game will take place on Saturday, Dec. 19 at noon at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Prediction: Ohio State 35, Northwestern 14

 

Alex Rocco is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at afr5646@psu.edu.