The Ohio State Buckeyes destroyed the hopes of the Wisconsin Badgers to being part of the CFP action. In a 27-21 thriller, the Buckeyes left Indianapolis with hopes of being invited to the College Football Playoffs themselves. But we would learn they would not come Sunday – as Alabama will be in – instead.
The Buckeyes ranked 8th Nationally peeled off four “big” plays of 50 yards-plus before finally holding off a determined and pesky Badgers team in front of a sellout crowd of 65, 886 at Lucas Oil Stadium in their 27-21 win.
The Badgers defense – came into this game ranked No. 1 nationally, had only given up three plays of 50 yards or more during its 12-game regular season. So arguably, was that ranking of any substance – considering their competition in the year? I have no right to question a good defense – a stingy one – so I’ll just pipe up!
By winning the Big Ten title, the second time for Coach Meyer and his six years at the helm of in Columbus – as now the, The Ohio State University (11-2) has assured itself of a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games – but not the CFP.
The Buckeyes JT Barrett came into this game following arthroscopic surgery to clean up the meniscus cartilage last Sunday and “permitted” for play. After Barrett went through warmups with no ill effects, Meyer announced he would start.
Barrett completed 12 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions – one of which was an early pick-six touchdown for the Badgers. On the ground he carried the ball 18 times for a net of 59 yards.
Freshman tailback J.K. Dobbins had a huge day as well with a career-high 174 yards on 17 carries. Dobbins had runs of 77 and 53 yards in the win. He would be announced as the game’s MVP – and deserving so.
The big play Buckeyes also got Barrett touchdown passes of 84 yards to Indianapolis native Terry McLaurin and 57 yards to Parris Campbell. Barrett also failed on likely TD’s twice on bombs to open receivers.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook went 19 of 40 passing for 229 yards with two interceptions.
The Badgers star running-back Jonathan Taylor came into the game ranked third nationally at 150.3 rushing yards per game. He ended up with 15 carries for 41 yards against the Buckeyes.
The teams exchanged punts to start the game before Wisconsin drove into the red zone. But on first down at the OSU 18, Hornibrook under threw his receiver and was intercepted by OSU’s Denzel Ward at the OSU 4-yard line.
On the ensuing possession, Barrett scrambled for a 9-yard gain to convert a third down. OSU had a first down at its own 16 when the Buckeyes went to an empty backfield. Barrett diagnosed the match-up he wanted as McLaurin went down the middle of the field. He got behind Wisconsin’s Joe Ferguson, caught it at the 50 and was gone on the 84-yard touchdown that made it 7-0 with 6:31 left in the first quarter.
Late in the quarter, OSU was again mired in its own end. On second-and-7 from the OSU 5, Barrett rolled right and threw toward Bin Victor. But UW linebacker Andrew Van Ginckel stepped in front of the pass, intercepted it and returned it 9 yards for the touchdown that tied it at 7-7 with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
OSU came back with a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive. On second-and-10 from the OSU 43, Barrett threw a screen to Campbell in the left flat. The Buckeye’s Austin Mack blocked one defender and Campbell eluded another before he exploded for the 57-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Dobbins took a give deep in his own end. He bounced off a Wisconsin defender and sped away on a 77-yard run. The Badgers Nick Nelson tracked him down at the 1-yard line. But Barrett went straight ahead behind linemen Billy Price and Demetrius Knox on the next play for the touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 11:10 left in the first half.
The Buckeye’s Mike Weber was hit and fumbled at the OSU 11. But the OSU defense stiffened and the Badgers settled for Rafael Gaglianone’s 28-yard field goal, cutting the OSU lead to 21-10 with 3:42 left in the half.
On OSU’s next possession, Barrett missed a pair of wide open receivers on deep passes. The Buckeyes also botched time management at the end of the half and sent Sean Nuernberger in to attempt a 43-yard field goal. But UW’s Nelson stormed in and blocked it on the last play of the half. OSU led 21-10 at the break.
Gaglianone hit a 46-yard field goal to cut the OSU lead to 21-13 with 10:14 left in the third quarter. OSU then got a 53-yard run from Dobbins into the red zone. But the drive stalled and the Buckeyes settled for Nuernberger’s 27-yard field goal and a 24-13 lead with 7:25 left in the third.
Late in the third, Barrett had a pass go off Marcus Baugh’s hands and right to UW linebacker Leon Jacobs for an interception at the Wisconsin 48.
Assisted by a roughing the passer penalty on OSU’s Robert Landers, Wisconsin went 52 yards in 11 plays to its first offensive touchdown. Chris James plowed in from the 1-yard line to cut the lead to 24-19 with 12:39 left in the game.
The scrapping that TD caused damage to the field turf – producing stadium maintenance workers to undertake the task to repair the damage before the game would continue. Wisconsin return to convert a two-pointer. The Buckeyes lead was cut to 24-21.
Wisconsin got a little woolly with a face mask penalty, allowing the Buckeyes to move from the 25-yard marker to the red zone. On fourth-and-1 at the 13, Barrett ran the quarterback draw and initially appeared stopped. He surged ahead to get the first down by inches.
That continued the drive, but OSU again faced fourth-and-1 at the Badgers 3-yard line. Meyer opted for a field goal with Nuernberger connecting on a 20-yarder to shove the lead to 27-21 with 5:20 left.
OSU pinned Wisconsin back at its own 19-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. The Badgers picked up a first down but a sack by Tyquan Lewis helped force a Wisconsin punt.
The Buckeyes got the ball back with 3:20 left on their own 12-yard line. Two running plays netted 5 yards before Barrett’s third-down swing pass to Dobbins was incomplete. The Buckeyes punted and the Badgers took over on their 29 as the clock showed 2:59 remaining.
The thriller was in full swing …. Wisconsin picked up a couple of first downs but the Badgers were flagged for holding when a lineman tackled defensive end Jalyn Holmes on a pass rush. Hornibrook then tossed three straight in-completions before his pass on fourth-and-20 was intercepted deep by Webb.
The Buckeyes took over with 1:09 on the clock. It was over!
* Ohio State’s 96-yard scoring drive is the longest in the seven-year history of the Big Ten Championship Game. It breaks the mark of 93 yards set by OSU against Wisconsin in 2014.
* Barrett’s 84-yard TD toss to McLaurin is the second-longest in B1G championship game history, trailing an 85-yarder from Iowa’s C.J. Beathard to Tevaughn Smith in 2015.
* Urban Meyer is now 5-0 against Wisconsin, 5-0 😉
Wisconsin, Paul Chryst is now 0-2 against the Buckeyes.
* Ohio State picked up its 36th Big Ten championship, second most of any school in the conference. Ohio State’s 20 outright titles lead the Big Ten.
* Meyer is 14-5 in his career in games played in December or January.
* Center Billy Price has set a new Ohio State record for consecutive starts with his 54 straight starts. He broke the record of 50 set by Luke Fickell (1993-96).
* Barrett is now the winning-est starting quarterback in OSU history. His record is now 37-6 as a starter, making him just the fourth 30-game winner in school history. He is joined by Art Schlichter, Cornelius Green and Bobby Hoying in the 30-win club. Barrett broke out of a tie for the school record for wins set by Schlichter, who was 36-11-1 from 1978 through 1981.
As I mentioned the Buckeyes will not be making it into the CFP’s this year. Alabama got the nod. By no means am I a ‘Bama fan, or even Nick Saban. But just as last year when the Buckeyes got in without winning their Division, or a Conference Title – the same happened now for the Tide. I am not pleased – especially seeing two SEC teams looking for the crown. The argument, or the purpose of this adventure for the nation’s top four teams to be in. As a Buckeye fan, I see the Buckeyes surging at the right time. Right now, I do believe they are one of the top four teams in the nation. But a surge means nothing when you lose by 31 to the Iowa Hawkeyes, while Alabama’s lone loss was against a very good Auburn team. Plain and simple – the Iowa loss is what created the snuff by the Committee for the Buckeyes.
So, bottom line – let’s head off to the Cotton Bowl and handle the Trojans of Southern Cal … and show the College Football World the argument for an 8-team Playoff System instead of four.