A strange season in the Big Ten will come to a close Saturday with the Big Ten Championship Game. Months after the conference initially postponed its season only to change direction and try to fit eight games into eight weeks, No. 4 Ohio State will take on No. 14 Northwestern to decide the conference's champion. And we all know who the Big Ten will be rooting for to win the title.
If not for another change of heart by the Big Ten, Ohio State wouldn't even be playing in this game. When the conference decided to return, it did so with a rule that said a team had to play six games or a certain percentage of the conference's overall games to qualify. When it became evident that Ohio State would fail to meet those requirements, the conference back-tracked and allowed the Buckeyes to play in the game.
It was the correct decision. Ohio State had already beaten its primary competition in the Big Ten East, and it's the conference's lone College Football Playoff contender. But Northwestern isn't concerned about the Big Ten's College Football Playoff hopes. It would love nothing more than to play spoiler to the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Ohio State: Ohio State and Nebraska were two of the most vocal opponents of the Big Ten's initial decision to postpone the 2020 season. Of the two, Ohio State had the most legit gripe. While Nebraska might have fancied itself a College Football Playoff contender, Ohio State has always been one, and it was losing the chance to compete for a national title. Now, thanks to a couple of reversals, Ohio State has its chance. The Buckeyes have had a strange season, seeing three games canceled, with only one due to COVID cases on the Buckeyes' part. It sits in the top four of the CFP Rankings, but it could use an impressive performance against Northwestern here to offset some of the complaints about not playing enough games. Whether or not that truly matters to the selection committee, we don't know. If it did, you'd think they'd have shown it by now, but then again, it's a fool's errand to search for logic in the CFP's thought process.
Northwestern: It's been a remarkable turnaround in Evanston this season. At this time last year, the Wildcats season was over. The team was 3-9 and at the bottom of the Big Ten West. This year, they've gone from worst to first, having gone undefeated in five division games (the lone loss came to Michigan State). Now, after surpassing nearly everybody's expectations, Northwestern has a chance to do it again. A win over Ohio State on Saturday would give Northwestern its first outright Big Ten title since 1995 (they were co-champions in 1996 and 2000).
Event: Big Ten Championship Game
Date: Saturday, Dec. 19 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium -- Indianapolis
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Ohio State vs. Northwestern prediction, picks
The instinct here is to lay the points with Ohio State because the Buckeyes will be looking to make a point. If you want to do that, I say go for it. Me? I'm going to be on the Wildcats. I don't think Northwestern has a good chance to win this game, but I can sense that they're going to be able to muck it up. It's just a perfect storm of everything Northwestern loves. Nobody thinks it has a prayer. All the talk is about Ohio State's playoff case. Its athletic director is leaving to take over the ACC. Its long-time defensive coordinator is retiring after the season. There are even rumors -- as spurious as they likely are -- that Pat Fitzgerald could be in line to coach the Chicago Bears. We're going to get Northwestern's absolute best effort here. It's probably not enough to win, but it will be enough to keep it within three touchdowns. Pick: Northwestern +20.5
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