Ohio State won its third consecutive Big Ten title on Saturday night in Indianapolis, but unlike the last two, this one will send the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff. No. 1 Ohio State came back from a 21-7 deficit at halftime to beat No. 8 Wisconsin 34-21. The win solidified Ohio State's playoff position, though it's not clear whether they'll hold on to their No. 1 seed.
Justin Fields overcame a slow start in the game to finish with 299 yards passing and three touchdowns. Much like last week against Michigan, Fields' mobility was limited by a sprained MCL, but J.K. Dobbins was able to handle the workload in the run game. Dobbins rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown in the win. K.J. Hill was Fields' favorite target in the passing game, catching seven passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Wisconsin got off to a quick start as Jonathan Taylor (148 yards rushing, 1 TD) broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead. That 7-0 deficit was the largest deficit the Buckeyes had faced all season until Wisconsin later scored to make it 14-0. Taylor broke off a 45-yard run late in the first half to set up Wisconsin's third touchdown just before halftime, but that would be the end of Wisconsin's offense for the night. The Buckeyes held the Badgers to 138 yards and no points in the second half, and 83 of those yards came on a fruitless drive on the final possession of the game with Wisconsin down two touchdowns.
Even on a night when Ohio State struggled, it showed its dominant side in the second half, and now the Buckeyes wait to see who and where they'll be playing next.
1. Ohio State deserves to remain No. 1. Recency bias is a powerful force, and with No. 2 LSU beating No. 4 Georgia 37-10 on Saturday in Atlanta, the debate will rage until the rankings come out. And it's a worthy debate. LSU's win over Georgia was its fourth win over a team currently in the top 12 of the College Football Playoff Rankings. Of course, by beating Wisconsin 34-21, Ohio State picked up its fifth win over a team currently ranked by the CFP.
In other words, Ohio State has one more win over a ranked team than LSU does, just like last week when the committee ranked Ohio State ahead of LSU. And what's really changed since then? Ohio State's five wins against ranked teams have come by an average of 25.2 points per game. LSU's win over ranked opponents were by an average of 12.25 points per game. The 27-point win over Georgia was the only one LSU had that was greater than the 25 points Ohio State's wins averaged.
Ohio State has been a dominant team all season long, and it was a complete team. While there's been a lot made of LSU's defense this year, the truth is that while it's not elite, it's still well above average. But Ohio State's is elite.
Also, as a reminder of how dominant Ohio State has been this season, let me remind you of what I wrote above. When Wisconsin jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, it was the largest deficit Ohio State had faced all season. Saturday night in Indianapolis was the first time the Buckeyes had faced adversity all season, and it responded by scoring 24 points in the second half and shutting out a top-10 team.
If that's not No. 1 material, what is?
| ||Ohio State||LSU|
|CFP Top 25 wins||5||4|
|Points per game||48.7||47.8|
|Yards per game||531||554.4|
|Opponents points per game||12.5||21.2|
2. The adversity was a good thing for Ohio State. Whether or not the Buckeyes are at No. 1 or No. 2, if they're going to win the College Football Playoff, it isn't going to be easy. They're going to have to beat two elite teams to do it. So, in a way, it was good for Ohio State to get tested by the Badgers on Saturday night. This is a team that was able to coast through nearly the entire regular season because it had yet to be tested.
Even Clemson, as dominant as it has been, had a close call against North Carolina. LSU has had tough tests with Auburn and Alabama. You never know how a team will respond to getting punched in the face until it gets punched in the face. On Saturday night, we learned how Ohio State responds.
3. Ohio State continues to dominate the second half. By outscoring the Badgers 24-0 in the second half on Saturday night, the Buckeyes finish the regular season outscoring opponents 263-88 in the second half. That's an average margin of 13.5 points per game in the second half. This has been a team that has proven time and again that it can adjust at halftime, and that's a sign of good coaching and good players. It's not like Ohio State went 13-0 by accident, and this is one of the many reasons why.
4. Wisconsin deserves a Rose Bowl. It's going to come down to where the committee ranks Wisconsin and Penn State. The Badgers were ahead of Penn State going into this game, and I don't think they should be punished for reaching the Big Ten Championship. The Badgers gave Ohio State the toughest test they faced all season. They put a much larger scare into them than Penn State ever did, and they should be rewarded with a trip to Pasadena. I hope the committee does the right thing.