Big Ten Championship Preview
Saturday night in Indianapolis, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Northwestern Wildcats will clash to determine who will win the Big Ten Championship. A win for the Buckeyes will give them a possibility of making the College Football Playoff. If the Wildcats pull off the upset, they would likely see themselves in the Rose Bowl.
Going into the season, many expected there to be a dogfight in the Big Ten East for who would represent the division in Indianapolis. Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State all beat up on each other throughout the season and when it was all set and done, it was the 11-1 Buckeyes representing the East in the conference championship game.
In the West division, many expected Wisconsin would make another appearance in this game, but the Badgers faltering opened the door for other teams. Many expected it to be Iowa, but Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern squad will be making its first appearance in the Big Ten title game.
So, it is the upstart Northwestern Wildcats and the powerhouse Ohio State Buckeyes in a battle for the Big Ten Championship.
Ohio State wins if…
All year long, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins has exceeded expectations. Outside of Ohio State’s loss to Purdue, Haskins has looked like a legit NFL prospect and if it weren't for Tua Tagovailoa then Haskins would be the Heisman front-runner.
For the first time in his time with Ohio State, Urban Meyer has a legitimate pocket passer as Haskins threw for over 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. If Haskins plays like he did in every game besides Purdue, then Ohio State has a great chance of winning.
Also, Ohio State needs to get the ball to its playmakers in space. Guys like JK Dobbins and Mike Weber are lethal in space and Ohio State will need to get the ball to them, especially in the screen game. They will also need to get receivers Parris Campbell and KJ Hill involved.
On defense, the Buckeyes have had their lapses, especially as of late. Giving up 51 points at Maryland exposed some major holes in the Ohio State defense, especially without projected top-10 pick Nick Bosa. They are going to need to improve in some of those areas or they could be on upset alert again come Saturday night.
Northwestern wins if…
They can score enough. As of late, the Northwestern defense has looked very good, notably giving up only ten points to Iowa a few weeks back. The Wildcats defense is not going to be able to hold Ohio State to only 24 points or less. Michigan had an elite defense and Ohio State put up 62 points on the Wolverines.
Northwestern is not going to win this game with its defense. They have not faced an offense as potent as Ohio State’s yet. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson is going to have to have a big game through the air if the Wildcats stand a chance at beating Ohio State.
It will be tough, but Northwestern is going to have to match the output of the Ohio State offense. There is not much firepower on the Northwestern offense, but if it can muster up some and expose the holes in Ohio State’s then they have a chance.
Northwestern has a good defense and if they can hold Ohio State to under 30 points then the Wildcats stand a better chance. That will be hard to do, so the Wildcats best option is to put up a lot of points to try and match the Buckeyes.
On paper, this is a game that Ohio State should win hands down. Obviously, the game still has to be played and there is always the chance for an upset. Even though the Northwestern defense has had a good season, I don’t know if they can slow down the Ohio State defense.
Expect a big day from Dwayne Haskins and the Ohio State offense. The Northwestern offense will put up some points, but it won’t be enough to match what Ohio State does offensively. Buckeyes win and give themselves a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State 38 Northwestern 21
Jake Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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