Big 10 Championship Game Preview

by ASA, Inc.

Friday, Dec 18, 2020
Ohio State vs Northwestern – Saturday @ Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis
CURRENT ODDS – Ohio State -20.5 / TOTAL 57
OHIO STATE (5-0 SU / 3-2 ATS) - The Buckeyes picked up another unplanned bye week when their rivalry game vs Michigan was cancelled.  It’s their 3rd week off this season.  The Big 10 originally decided that in order for a team to be eligible for the Championship game, they must play at least 6 games.  The schools revisited that plan last week and tweaked it so Ohio State, who is 5-0, can play on Saturday.  In their most recent game the Bucks were hit hard by the conference covid protocol as they had 20+ players out @ Michigan State, including 3 starting offensive linemen.  It didn’t matter as they crushed the Spartans 52-12.  Despite starting 3 freshmen back ups on the offensive line, OSU was able to rush for 322 yards on 6.7 YPC.  The only time OSU was really threatened this year was their home game vs Indiana.  They won that game 42-35 but led 28-7 at half and let the Hoosiers back in it.  Their other relatively close game was a 12 point win over Rutgers.  Same scenario in that game with the Bucks leading 35-3 at half, pulling their foot off the gas, and letting Rutgers cut into the lead.  The Buckeyes were 3-2 ATS this year and those were the 2 games they did not cover even though it looked like they may at halftime.  How dominant were the Buckeyes this year?  Their total minutes played this year was 300 (5 games) and they trailed for a grand total of 5 minutes this season.  That was the first game of the season vs Nebraska when the Huskers scored on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead.  The offense is arguably the best in the nation.  They rank 1st in the Big 10 in total offense (6th nationally) and 1st in the conference in scoring (4th nationally).  Their defensive weakness is vs the pass.  They rank dead last in the Big 10 in pass defense and 111th nationally.  The Buckeyes caught a nice break on their week off when Florida lost to LSU.  That loss most likely puts OSU in College Football’s Final 4 with a win here.  It sounds like the Bucks will have most if not all of the players back who missed the MSU game because of their covid situation.  Something we’ll have to keep an eye on as the week progresses.  
NORTHWESTERN (6-1 SU / 5-1-1 ATS) – While Ohio State had last week off, Northwestern was playing their year end rivalry game vs Illinois.  The Cats closed out the regular season with one of their best offensive performances of the season rolling up 493 total yards in their 28-10 win and cover.  The excitement of a big offensive day may need to be tempered a bit as Illinois now ranks dead last in the Big 10 in total defense.  QB Ramsey completed only 7 passes the entire game but the Wildcats ran for 411 yards on 58 carries.  It was the first time in 17 years they rushed for more than 400 yards in a single game.  That’s been Northwestern’s game plan for much of the season.  Run the ball, eat clock, and let their defense and special teams win games for them.  They’ve done that well this season as the 6-1 Wildcats have scored 21 point or less in half of their wins this season (3).  The defense has allowed 20 points or less in 5 of their 6 games this year.  They rank 12th in the Big 10 in total offense and 3rd in total defense (#1 in scoring defense).  They’ve run the ball more often than any other team in the conference averaging 44 carries per game.  The problem is, they aren’t great at running the ball.  They average just 3.9 YPC and that’s with their huge effort on Saturday vs the Illini.  Prior to that game they were averaging only 3.1 YPC on the season.  The Wildcats will more than likely have to change their offensive game plan entering Saturday’s game vs OSU.  The Bucks allow just 95 YPG on the ground but can be taken advantage of through the air as we mentioned above.  It they are able to pull the upset here, much of it will probably fall on QB Ramsey’s shoulders.  He’s rarely been asked to light it up through the air as the Cats average just 180 YPG passing which is 13th in the conference and 106th nationally.  While NW hasn’t asked him to be the main cog in the offense, Ramsey has proven he can carry the load in the past as he threw for 6,500 yards and 42 TD’s in his 3 years @ Indiana prior to coming to Northwestern.  
OHIO STATE BIG 10 STATS (conference ranking in parentheses)
Scoring Offense 46.6 (1st) / Defense 23.3 (5th)
Total Offense 532.4 (1st) / Defense 363.8 (6th)
Yards Per Play Offense 7.3 (1st) / Defense 5.6 (10th)
Rush Offense 251 (1st) / Defense 95 (2nd)
Rushing YP Carry Offense 5.5 (1st) / Defense 3.4 (3rd)
Pass Offense 281.4 (2nd) / Defense 268.8 (14th)
Pass YP Attempt Offense 10.3 (1st) / Defense 7.2 (8th)
NORTHWESTERN BIG 10 STATS (conference ranking in parentheses)
Scoring Offense 25.3 (9th) / Defense 14.6 (1st)
Total Offense 351.4 (12th) / Defense 313.9 (3rd)
Yards Per Play Offense 4.7 (13th) / Defense 4.5 (2nd)
Rush Offense 170.6 (7th) / Defense 121.9 (4th)
Rushing YP Carry 3.9 (9th) / Defense 3.8 (6th)
Pass Offense 180.9 (13th) / 192 Defense (2nd)
Pass YP Attempt Offense 6.0 (13th) / Defense 5.0 (1st)
STATS vs COMMON OPPONENTS – 2 common opponents this season
Ohio State (-21.5) vs Michigan State – 52-12 Win / +260 total yard advantage / +241 rushing advantage / +19 passing advantage / -1 turnover margin
Northwestern (-13.5) vs Michigan State – 20-29 Loss / -77 total yard disadvantage / -132 rushing disadvantage / +55 passing advantage / +0 turnover margin
Ohio State (-28) vs Nebraska – 52-17 Win / +121 total yard advantage / +5 rushing advantage / +116 passing advantage / -1 turnover margin
Northwestern (-4) vs Nebraska – 21-13 Win / -125 total yard disadvantage / -76 rushing disadvantage / -49 passing disadvantage / -2 turnover margin
2019 - Ohio State 52, Northwestern 3 (OSU +281 total yard advantage)
2018 – BT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Ohio State 45, Northwestern 24 (OSU +189 total yard advantage)
2016 – Ohio State 24, Northwestern 20 (OSU +25 total yard advantage)
2013 – Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30 (OSU +14 total yard advantage)
2008 – Ohio State 45, Northwestern 10 (OSU +147 total yard advantage)
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – These 2 Big Ten foes have faced off 27 times since 1980.  The Buckeyes are 26-1 SU & 17-9 ATS in those games including covering 7 of the last 8 meetings.  OSU has scored at least 40 points in 16 of those 27 meetings including 7 of the last 8.  These two have met 7 times since 2006 and the OVER has cashed in 6 of those games with an average of 60.2 total points scored.  

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