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Big 10 Championship Preview
by ASA - 12/01/2018
2018 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
OHIO STATE vs NORTHWESTERN – 8:00 PM ET @ Indianapolis
LINE – Ohio State -14.5
TOTAL – 60.5
OHIO STATE – OSU enters the Big Ten Championship game with an 11-1 overall record, 8-1 in the Big Ten. Their lone loss was a bad one as Purdue trounced the Buckeyes 49-20 back on October 20th. Last week they were a home underdog to arch rival Michigan for the first time since 2004. They didn’t look like the underdog on the field as they routed the Wolverines 62-39. The Michigan defense had allowed a TOTAL of 105 points in their 8 Big Ten games entering last week. OSU lit them up for more than half that season total in one game. It was the most points OSU has EVER scored in this rivalry and the most points Michigan has EVER allowed in a game period (in regulation). That win pushed Ohio State’s record vs their rival to 14-1 the last 15 meetings. The Buckeye offense was as explosive as it’s been all season long scoring TD’s on plays of 24, 24, 31, 78, 2, 1, and 16 yards and almost 30% of their offensive plays 19 of 67) went for at least 10 yards. This team is obviously very talented and it took being an underdog at home to Michigan to bring their “A” performance. They had muddled through much of the conference season struggling to beat teams they should have handled easily. They were just 2-6 ATS in Big Ten play entering last week’s game. Can they bring their peak performance again this week versus a “ho-hum” opponent? They didn’t for most of the season, however they now have the College Football Playoff in sight and may need a big win here to get there. OSU’s mental state after last week’s emotional win will be key to handicapping this game. The Buckeyes lead the league in total offense by large margin as they average 523 YPG which is 70 YPG more than Nebraska who checks in at 2nd place. However, on defense OSU has fallen off big time from last year as they allow 403 YPG which is 130 YPG more than they gave up in conference play last season. This will be OSU’s 5th appearance in this game in 9 seasons.
NORTHWESTERN – The Cats come into this game with just an 8-4 overall record, but a near perfect 8-1 mark in Big Ten play. Pat Fitzgerald’s troops are now 15-1 SU their last 16 conference games dating back to last season. They weren’t always overly impressive in doing so as just one of their eight conference wins came by more than 10 points. Last week they were favored by 16 at home against state rival Illinois and came away with a tight 24-16 win. That was just one week after the Illini lost 63-0 at home to Iowa. Illinois actually outgained the Cats 435 to 375, however with a 21-6 lead at halftime, Fitzgerald pulled many of his starters in the 2nd half as they had already locked up a spot in the Championship game. Even as the game tightened up late in the 4th quarter with the Illini driving for the potential tying score, Fitzgerald kept most of his regulars on the bench. The defense stiffened late and picked off an Illini pass at their own 17-yard line to ice the game. Despite only losing one conference game, Northwestern was outgained in Big Ten play by an average of 27 YPG (344 YPG offense / 371 YPG defense) and by 0.7 YPP (4.7 YPP offense / 5.4 YPP defense). Offensively they rank 12th in the league in total offense and 13th in rushing although they’ve run the ball better as of late averaging 166 YPG their last 5. They rely heavily on their QB Clayton Thorson who will be starting his 52nd consecutive game under center which is a Big Ten record. Defensively they rank 5th in the Big Ten in total defense and 4th against the rush. This will be the Wildcat’s first ever appearance in the Big Ten Championship game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – OSU is favored by 14 in this one and it’s the first time in Big Ten Championship history that a team has been favored by double digits. Last year Ohio State was favored by -5.5 in this game and won 27-21 covering the number by a half point. It was the first time in Big Ten Championship history the favorite actually covered the game as the dog is now 6-1 ATS. Not only has the favorite struggled to cover in this game, they are just 4-4 SU. The Buckeyes have owned this series winning 30 of the last 31 meetings outright with Northwestern’s only win coming in 2004. OSU has been favored in all 25 games played in this series since 1980 and they are 16-9 ATS in those games. Northwestern is 6-0-1 ATS as a dog this year with point spread wins over both Michigan & Notre Dame. Going back even further, the Cats are 22-6 ATS the last 28 times they’ve been getting points.