A perfect regular season (12-0). Another blistering win over "That Team Up North," this time by a score of 56-27. Time to relax, right, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day?
Wrong. Standing in the way of another Big Ten championship are the Wisconsin Badgers, a team Ohio State has already played this season, and a team that is certainly capable of upsetting the Buckeyes' chances of getting into the College Football Playoff.
Day is certainly doing everything possible to keep his team properly focused for what lies ahead. "To say it's not a challenge would be not accurate... We've got to be able to rebound back after that emotional win."
Below are five reasons why Ohio State will improve to 13-0 and earn a spot in the playoff with a win over Wisconsin on Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the Big Ten Championship Game
1. J.K. Dobbins will showcase his talents to the nation
There are a number of college football fans who believe that Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor is the nation's best running back. Highly debatable, but the performances Dobbins has been putting on should at least put him in the discussion. Here is the proof – 1,657 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, and Dobbins has become the Ohio State's second all-time leading rusher behind Archie Griffin. Any time you can move past legendary Buckeyes such as Eddie George or Ezekiel Elliott should make you think that Dobbins is a premier back.
2. Justin Fields is playing at an All-American level
Briefly forced from the game due to a sprained MCL, Fields promptly returned and threw a touchdown pass to true freshman wideout Garrett Wilson. The poise, toughness, and grit are what endear Fields to his coaches and teammates. Saturday night against Wisconsin, Fields will use this opportunity to demonstrate why he is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate – if not for 2019, certainly heading into the '20 season.
3. Chase Young is going to make an impact... again
Last week against Michigan, Young felt the... embrace of the Wolverines' offensive linemen. Perhaps the Wolverines were merely trying to avoid experiencing what they had seen by Penn State the week before. Young was, in the parlance of Mickey Goldberg of Rocky III, a "wrecking machine" versus Wisconsin when Ohio State played the Badgers in late October. It certainly seems that Young has the potential to do it again on Saturday night in a stadium he could find himself playing in again on Sundays as early as next season.
4. Ohio State's defense will contain Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor
Notice I wrote, "contain." Not "shut down." Taylor is too good to expect Ohio State to completely take him out of the game. But something to keep in mind is the focus the Buckeyes have had when competing against Taylor. Courtesy of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Taylor averages 2.65 yards per carry against Ohio State, and 6.87 against everyone else." If Ohio State's defense effectively bottles up Taylor, as it has in previous matchups, that will force the Badgers to try and keep pace with the Buckeyes through the air. Wisconsin's offense is not built for that type of approach.
5. Ohio State is on a mission
When asked about winning an outright third straight Big Ten title, Day replied, "I think it would be huge... To go win this thing undefeated would say a lot about our team. The last couple years there's been that trip up along the way, then we had to rally to go win that. I thought that said a lot about the character of the program both last two years. This one is a little bit different. Now it's more about can we sustain this level of play throughout this regular season, now into this championship season. That's the challenge. That’s something that we’ve been focused on week in, week out. Now here we go. Head towards that finish line the last, you know, home stretch. Then after we get done with that we come up for air and figure out what's next. All our eyes are on that finish line."
The head coach has his team in the right frame of mind, and the finish line is in sight. Wisconsin will be better than it was in October's meeting, but the Buckeyes have too much talent, depth, and speed for the Badgers. That means Ohio State will clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff (quite possibly the No. 1 overall seed) by the conclusion of Saturday night.