INDIANAPOLIS – For the first half of Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game, it looked like it might not be Ohio State’s night. Then, as the Buckeyes did in their first game against Wisconsin on Oct. 26 and have in so many games this season, they took over in the second half.
Ohio State trailed Wisconsin by 14 points at halftime, but outscored the Badgers 27-0 in the second half to win the game, 34-21, for its third consecutive Big Ten championship.
With the win, Ohio State improved to 13-0 on the season and locked up its berth in the College Football Playoff.
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For the second week in a row, Ohio State’s defense gave up a touchdown on its opening series of the game. Jack Coan completed a 27-yard pass to Quintez Cephus on Wisconsin’s first offensive play, Coan made Baron Browning miss for a 9-yard third-down conversion run on the Badgers’ next set of downs and one play later, Jonathan Taylor gashed the Badgers up the middle for a 44-yard touchdown.
Unlike last week’s game against Michigan, Ohio State’s offense didn’t deliver an immediate response. The Buckeyes turned the ball over on downs on their opening possession when Justin Fields was stopped on a scramble after Ryan Day opted to go for it on 4th-and-7 from Wisconsin’s 34-yard line. They were forced to punt on their second series, despite a spectacular 34-yard catch along the left sideline by Austin Mack, after Fields took a third-down sack at the 42-yard line, and Ohio State finished the first quarter without points as a result.
Saturday’s game marked the first time all season that Ohio State has trailed at the end of the first quarter, which was also the first quarter in which the Buckeyes failed to score since the first quarter of its regular-season game against Wisconsin on Oct. 26.
Ohio State, which never trailed by more than six points in any of its 12 regular-season games, fell behind by two scores on Wisconsin’s opening drive of the second quarter. Coan beat the Buckeyes’ defense with his feet once again, running for a 9-yard gain to convert a 3rd-and-9 and a 14-yard touchdown run two plays later, to take a 14-0 lead.
Needing desperately to change the momentum of the game, Day made a gutsy call on the Buckeyes’ next possession by calling for a fake punt at Ohio State’s own 26-yard line, and it worked, as Drue Chrisman completed a pass to Luke Farrell for a 21-yard gain. The Buckeyes proceeded to drive inside Wisconsin’s 10-yard line after a 21-yard pass from Fields to Binjimen Victor and a 24-yard run by J.K. Dobbins. The Buckeyes left the red zone without points, however, when Fields fumbled the ball on a third-down run and Wisconsin recovered.
After forcing a punt on Wisconsin’s next possession, Ohio State finally scored its first points of the game with 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Highlighted by a 16-yard third-down connection between Fields and Chris Olave and a 27-yard gain off a crossing route by K.J. Hill one play later, the Buckeyes put together a 10-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 2-yard Dobbins touchdown run.
That could have given Ohio State an opportunity to tie the game on the opening drive of the second half, but the Badgers hit a couple big plays to set up another touchdown before halftime. Taylor – who ran for just 52 yards in Ohio State’s regular season game against Wisconsin – had a 45-yard run and Coan completed a 24-yard pass to Cephus to set up a quarterback sneak into the end zone for Coan that gave the Badgers a 21-7 lead at the break.
Ohio State delivered the response that it needed in the second half.
On its opening series of the third quarter, Olave got open deep to catch a long bomb from Fields for a 50-yard gain, and two plays later, Jeremy Ruckert made a spectacular one-handed catch at the back of the end zone on an overthrown ball by Fields for a 16-yard touchdown.
The Buckeyes forced a 3-and-out on Wisconsin’s opening possession of the half, and Badgers punter Anthony Lotti fumbled the snap, giving Ohio State the ball at Wisconsin’s 16-yard line. Ohio State wasn’t able to take full advantage of the short field, but the Buckeyes cut Wisconsin’s lead to 21-17 with a 27-yard Blake Haubeil field goal.
Ohio State gave Wisconsin 30 free yards on its subsequent possession, on which Jahsen Wint and Damon Arnette were both called for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but the Buckeyes managed to hold the Badgers to a 48-yard field goal attempt, which Zach Hintze missed wide left.
Hill caught a 16-yard touchdown pass on Ohio State’s next possession – the same drive on which he broke David Boston’s school record for career receptions – to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game with 2:23 left to play in the third quarter.
Following another 3-and-out by Wisconsin, Hill caught another touchdown pass from 13 yards out on the Buckeyes’ next series to extend their lead to two scores with 12:09 to play.
Ohio State scored the final points of the game on a 24-yard Blake Haubeil field goal with 4:39 left to play.
With the win, Ohio State moves to 13-0 in a season for just the second time in school history – the only previous time it reached that mark was in its 2002 national championship season – and will make its third College Football Playoff in six years. The Buckeyes also become the first team to ever win three consecutive Big Ten Championship Games.
Now, Ohio State will await an announcement on Sunday at noon to find out what playoff seed it will be and where it will be playing its semifinal game. The Buckeyes are expected to be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the four-team field – depending on whether the committee moves LSU up after its 37-10 win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game – while Clemson is expected to be the No. 3 seed and Oklahoma is expected to be the No. 4 seed after their respective wins in their conference championship games on Saturday.
- Backup linebacker Brendon White, who had played just three snaps in Ohio State's previous two games, did not make the trip to Indianapolis for Saturday's game despite being listed on the travel roster.
- Jordan Fuller, Dobbins, Hill, Chase Young were Ohio State's game captains for the opening coin toss.
- Shaun Wade returned for the Buckeyes after missing their previous game against Michigan due to an injury. He did not start the game because Ohio State opened in a four-linebacker package, but returned to his usual status as a mainstay in three-cornerback packages for the Buckeyes' defense. He left the game late in the fourth quarter, however, after appearing to suffer another injury.
- Starting cornerback Jeff Okudah left the game in the first quarter with an apparent injury but returned for the start of the second half.
- Wyatt Davis left the game in the second quarter with an apparent shoulder injury but also returned for the start of the second half.
- Saturday's game was the Buckeyes' first in-season rematch since their Rose Bowl loss to UCLA to end the 1975 season.
- In the two games between the Buckeyes and Badgers this season, Ohio State outscored Wisconsin by a combined score of 72-28.