No. 6 Ohio State is your 2018 Big Ten Champion, as the Buckeyes beat No. 21 Northwestern 45-24 in Indianapolis. Whether or not it will result in a berth in the College Football Playoff will be decided Sunday afternoon, but a conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl is a nice consolation prize if the Buckeyes find themselves left out of the top four yet again.
It was a massive night for Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, as he finished the evening having thrown for 499 yards passing and five touchdowns. His favorite target was Johnnie Dixon, who finished with 7 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. Dixon was also on the receiving end of a 68-yard grab late in the fourth quarter that set up the Ohio State touchdown that put the game away.
As for Northwestern, the Wildcats did what they'd done all season long. They played hard, and they stayed in the game, trailing by only three points until late in the third and a touchdown in the fourth. The dam would break, though, and the Wildcats will be left to wonder what might have been if not for three turnovers during the game.
Here are some key takeaways from the game.
1. Ohio State probably won't make the College Football Playoff.
With Georgia losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship, the fourth spot is down to Oklahoma and Ohio State (or at least, it should only be between them). Considering that Oklahoma came into the weekend ahead of Ohio State in the rankings and avenged its only loss of the season against Texas, it's hard to imagine Ohio State moves past the Sooners in the rankings. The Longhorns were ranked ahead of the Wildcats after all, and while a 21-point win is impressive, I don't think it was impressive enough.
If the Buckeyes had controlled the entire game, maybe it would have been, but while they won by 21, the deficit was only seven points with under 10 minutes to play.
2. Dwayne Haskins might have earned a trip to New York
Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa are still your Heisman front-runners, but you have to wonder if Haskins didn't solidify a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony with this performance. His 499 yards passing and five touchdowns give him 4,580 yards and 47 passing touchdowns this year, along with four rushing touchdowns. Those numbers are probably good enough to win the Heisman in most seasons, but unfortunately for Haskins, he happened to post them in a season in which Murray and Tagovailoa put up comical numbers.
3. Ohio State is 12-1, won the Big Ten, and the season feels like somewhat of a disappointment
I don't know what that says about the expectations placed upon the Buckeyes. This is a team that's expected to compete for the national title every season, yet it will likely miss the playoff again for the fourth straight season since it won the inaugural event in 2014. Like last season, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten but had their entire season derailed by an unexpected blowout loss. Last year it was to Iowa, this year Purdue.
Still, even if this season doesn't result in a national title, I hope the players on this team are proud of themselves. With all the drama off the field surrounding their coaching staff, the Buckeyes had plenty of chances to quit on the season, but they persevered and played their best when they needed to. A lot of teams would have phoned it in after the Purdue loss.
4. Northwestern should be proud of itself as well
Every coach tells his team that "nobody expected us to be here," yet when Pat Fitzgerald said it to his team before the game, he wasn't lying! Northwestern started the season 1-3 with losses to Baylor, Duke and Akron. Akron! It could have packed it in and given up on the season too, but it didn't. Instead, it went out and won the Big Ten West, and while it was a down year in the division, the Wildcats still only lost one game: a three-point loss at home to a top 10 team in Michigan. They then hung with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. Having watched this team a lot in 2018, I was very impressed by how hard this team plays. You might beat Northwestern, but they're going to make it as difficult as possible for you to do so. That tells you everything you need to know about the players on this Northwestern team, as well as the coaches who lead them.
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