This Saturday, two top 15 teams will head to Lucas Oil Stadium for the opportunity to compete for the B1G Championship title. No. 5 Ohio State and No. 13 Wisconsin.
This past season has been quite a journey for both teams. For starters, this time last year was when Ohio State suffered their first loss in two seasons at the hands of Michigan State for the conference title. Since then, it has taken a little more than luck for Urban Meyer to get his Buckeyes back towards the top.
The beginning of the Buckeye season saw the loss of quarterback Braxton Miller, bringing J.T. Barrett under center to take lead of the offense. Things were all good and well for the freshman who totaled 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns on the season, until he suffered a season ending injury in the fourth quarter against Michigan last week.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for OSU, but Urban Meyer is tough, and is unlike any other coach out there, who will cling on to his playoff hopes with every fiber of his being. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen, but the man wins games. However, he will have to fight with all he has this Saturday in Indianapolis.
The Badgers have had their own trials and tribulations throughout the season. They counted themselves out of the playoffs with an early season loss to LSU and a later defeat by Northwestern. However, the team has developed over the season, as has a Heisman contender out of the backfield, Melvin Gordon.
Gordon has dominated the offense this season and helped Wisconsin learn to control the game on the ground. Gordon boasts a whole slew of records and impressive numbers this season, but most notable is his rushing for 200 or more yards in 5 games this season, with 31 rushes of 20 yards or more. He has also been known to turn up his intensity out on the field when he faces tougher opponents. This will require the Buckeyes to really work things out on the defensive side of the ball. They currently have 37 sacks on the season and they will need to employ all the power that they have against the Badgers.
While Gordon is the hot topic of for Wisconsin, they still have a great player under center by the name of Joel Stave. The junior may not boast leading league numbers, but he is still an asset to the squad and will help to ensure that the Badgers score early and often. He has developed extremely well as a game manager.
What Ohio State needs to focus on is their quarterback situation. With Barrett off the field, the Buckeyes must call upon third string quarterback Cardale Jones, who has attempted all of 17 passes this season. It is hard to really assess Jones, simply for the fact that he hasn’t been out on the field enough. This game will be a challenge for the Buckeyes, mostly because Jones is making his first start, in a title game, making the stakes and the pressure even higher.
However, sources have reported for OSU that no one has worked harder this week than Jones, and that he is taking his responsibility very seriously. He will need to rely heavily on the strengths of Ezekiel Elliot. The sophomore running back has rushed for 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. As long as Jones can get the ball to Elliot, OSU should be in good shape.
What this game boils down to is a great offense against a great defense. That being said, each unit will need to turn up the intensity on either side of the ball in order to have the best chance at controlling the battle for the B1G title. No matter what, we can count on both sidelines to play out to their fullest capability, and will determine who the best in the B1G really is.
*Section Photo credit to Hannah Foslien, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports