Due to circumstances beyond our control, there is no Penn State football game to look forward to this weekend, but there is one Big Ten game left on the slate before the conference members split off to participate in bowl games. That, of course, is the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis on Saturday night.
On one side, we have the 12-0 Wisconsin Badgers. Undefeated yet unproven, Paul Chryst’s team has heard all year about how no matter how good it looks in the Big Ten West, it won’t be able to hang with the big boys. Saturday is a chance for the Badgers to prove the country wrong and punch its ticket for the program’s first ever College Football Playoff berth.
The Playoff is already a familiar place for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who were named national champions by the inaugural four-team bonanza. They earned a spot last year as well, only to be embarrassed by Clemson in a shutout loss. Ohio State’s road to the title game in 2017 hasn’t been as smooth as Wisconsin’s, but its incredible comeback win over Penn State and a dominant showing against Michigan State were enough to overcome a puzzling loss to Iowa.
If the favored Buckeyes defeat Wisconsin, they’ll have to hope that the win is impressive enough to vault them over No. 5 Alabama in the rankings. If not, Ohio State will be left out of the Playoff for the second time in three years.
So how does it all shake out? Our football writers gathered this week to answer that very question.
Clay: Bucky is finally going to get the job done and rid us of both Bama and OSU in the Playoff. The Badgers are a confident, healthy football team and they play a style of football that OSU has struggled with this year (see: Iowa, Michigan). Alex Hornibrook will need to make a couple of plays, but I think we'll see Troy Fumagali help him a bit and a hobbled J.T. Barrett turns the ball over a pair of times to help Wisky to a 31-23 win.
DLando: I think the difference in the game is J.T., otherwise known as Jonathan Taylor, for the Badgers. His running and the Badger defense is just enough for Wisconsin to eke out a victory.
Dena: With Ohio State banged up a bit on offense (J.T. Barrett's knee, and two Buckeye offensive linemen who came out of the game last week with injuries), they won't be able to keep up with Wisconsin's defense. Wisconsin 31 Ohio State 17
Chris: I really want to pick Wisconsin here, because a Badger win is the best possible thing for Penn State and college football in general. Enough Bama, enough Ohio State. Let someone else get a turn. But Ohio State has looked so good at times this year, while Wisconsin has looked pedestrian. The Buckeyes just make sense as the pick here... NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! After being beaten up by Michigan, the Buckeyes limp into Indianapolis and play an undefeated, confident Wisconsin team who is tired of hearing about how weak their schedule is. They pound on the Buckeyes with man ball and leave with the conference crown. Wisconsin 28, Ohio State 17
Jared: My opinion on this changes about every four minutes, so I'll bite the bullet and go with my current thought process. The Buckeyes are incredibly talented, but have their flaws which will likely keep them out of the Playoff. Wisconsin may not have the same amount of blue-chippers, but are so well-rounded in all aspects of the game. The Badgers win the old-fashioned way: winning the battles in the trenches, making you earn each inch on the field, not making silly mistakes, and keeping opposing offenses on the sideline. Wisconsin's offensive line, arguably the best in the nation, against the Buckeyes defensive line, arguably the best in the nation, will be a fascinating matchup. In the end, I think the Badgers can do enough as the more complete team to earn a hard-fought victory to clinch their first trip to the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 23
Aaron: This is so lame, but I think Wisconsin will win as well. The Badgers underwhelmed against bad teams earlier this season, but lately they have done a better job dominating with their running game and defense. I don’t feel great about a limited Barrett going up against one of the best defenses in the country, and last week Alex Hornibrook finally played a Big Ten game without throwing an interception! Wisconsin 20, Ohio State 17.
Everyone loves the underdog, it seems! Make sure you tune in to FOX this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET to see if the Black Shoe Diaries writers are right or hilariously wrong.