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Big 10 Championship Preview
by Al McMordie - 11/30/2017
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW - @ Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
OHIO STATE (-6) vs WISCONSIN – Saturday at 8:00 PM ET
OHIO STATE – A struggling Michigan offense with serious problems at QB gave OSU all they could handle last Saturday. John O’Korn got the start under center for the Wolverines as recent starter Brandon Peters was out with a head injury. Despite O’Korn completing barely over 50% of his passes in the game and missing a number of open receivers, Michigan jumped out to a 14-0 lead and the Buckeyes didn’t take their first lead until 1:34 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Ohio State’s final touchdown of the game came with just 1:44 remaining and gave them the 31-20 win. Neither team was overly impressive on offense as OSU had 350 yards and Michigan had 295. The 350 yards of offense for the Bucks was tied for their lowest output of the entire season as Oklahoma also held this team to same yard total. OSU was forced to punt 6 times which may not seem like a big deal, however it was only the 2nd time all season they punted more than 4 times in a game. One of the keys to this potent offense is obviously QB JT Barrett. He left last week’s game in the 4th quarter with a knee injury and while he says he will play in this one, it’s something we’ll have to keep a close eye on all week long. At the time in which Barrett exited with 5:00 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter he had only completed 3 passes in the game. His back up, Dwayne Haskins, came in and played quite well completing 6 of 7 passes for nearly 100 yards and he also ran for 24 yards on 3 carries. If Haskins is pushed into a starting role here, he has been picked up some much needed experience this year and been impressive completing 40 of his 57 pass attempts for 4 TD’s and just 1 interception.
WISCONSIN – Many continue to doubt the Badgers due to their schedule but the fact is they just keep beating who stands in front of them and doing it rather easily. Last week they rolled over Minnesota 31-0 holding the Gophers to just 133 total yards on 48 plays (2.7 YPP). Minnesota had only 46 yards in the first half and didn’t pick up their initial first down until just 41 seconds remaining until halftime. The Badgers held Minny to just THREE pass completions the entire game! With that effort the Badger defense has moved to #1 nationally in total defense allowing just 237 YPG. That’s a full 20 yards better than 2nd place Alabama. They are allowing opponents to gain only 4.0 YPP (least in the nation) and this defense has allowed only 12 offensive TD’s in their 12 games this season. Now the Big Ten has not been an “offensive” conference this year with only 3 teams ranked in the top 50 nationally in total offense (OSU, PSU, and Wisconsin) so we’ll find out just how good this defense is on Saturday when they face, by far, the best offense they’ve seen this season (OSU ranked 4th nationally in total offense). Last week Wisconsin was very good offensively as well tallying 456 yards including 287 on the ground. QB Alex Hornibrook was extremely efficient with just 4 incompletions in his 19 pass attempts. It was a game many though UW might struggle with coming off a huge Michigan win but they dominated from start to finish. The Badgers will bring their “A” game here. They blew a big lead in last year’s Big Ten Championship game eventually losing a close game to PSU and were embarrassed by OSU in 2014 in this game 59-0. Will their top effort be enough if OSU brings their best as well is the million dollar question.
COMMON OPPONENTS – These two had 6 common opponents this season (Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Indiana, and Nebraska). We broke down the results of each team in those games only and here is how the numbers worked out…
BUCKEYES VS COMMON OPPONENTS - Ohio State was 5-1 vs those 6 opponents (3-3 ATS). The Buckeyes scored 274 points in those games for an average of 45.6 PPG. The Buckeye defense allowed 138 points in those games for an opponent average of 23 PPG. The OSU offense gained 3,077 total yards on 473 offensive plays in those games. That’s an average of 512 YPG on 6.5 yards per play. The Buckeye defense allowed 1,783 total yards on 385 plays vs those 6 opponents. That’s an average of 297 YPG allowed on 4.6 yards per play. Thus, OSU vs common opponents was +22 PPG, +215 YPG, and +1.9 YPP.
BADGERS VS COMMON OPPONENTS – Wisconsin was 6-0 vs those 6 common opponents (5-1 ATS). The Badgers scored 207 points in those games for an average of 34.5 PPG. The UW defense allowed 81 points in those games for an opponent average of 13.5 PPG. The Wisconsin offense gained 2,323 total yards on 395 plays in those games. That’s an average of 387 YPG on 5.9 yards per play. The Badger defense allowed 1.501 total yards on 377 plays vs those 6 opponents. That’s an average of 250 YPG allowed on 3.9 yards per play. Thus, Wisconsin vs common opponents was +21 PPG, +187 YPG, and +2.0 YPP.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This will be Wisconsin’s 5th appearance in the 7 year history of the Big Ten Championship game. The Badgers are 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS in this game. They were favored in 3 of those 4 games and the only other time (besides this year) Wisconsin was an underdog was in 2012. They were +3 vs Nebraska that year and won the game outright 70-31. Surprisingly, OSU has appeared in just 2 of the 6 Big Ten Championships thus far. They are 1-1 SU & ATS in those games with their one win coming in 2014 vs this Badger team 59-0! The Buckeyes have won 8 of the last 9 meetings with Wisconsin outright. The underdog has covered 12 of the last 16 in this Big Ten battle. This is the first time the Badgers have been an underdog this season. They are 14-5 ATS overall in that role vs all opponents dating back to 2009. OSU is 19-10 ATS overall as a favorite of a TD or less dating back to the 2005 season.