The Big Ten Championship Game next week will feature a pair of familiar faces. No. 8 Wisconsin is heading back to Indianapolis for the sixth time in nine installments since the conference split into divisions after beating No. 8 Minnesota 38-17 in the wind and snow of Minneapolis to clinch the Big Ten West. The Badgers will face No. 1 Ohio State at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Badgers put up a complete effort against the Gophers on Saturday. With the wintry conditions, things set up for Jonathan Taylor to have a huge role, and he did. Taylor finished with 76 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving and three total touchdowns. Still, the star of the day was receiver Quintez Cephus, who caught five passes for 114 yards and a score. Wisconsin's defense also did a terrific job of limiting the Minnesota ground game, holding the Gophers to 76 yards on 30 carries. They also forced Tanner Morgan into two turnovers, picking off one pass and forcing a fumble on a sack.
Morgan did not have his best performance of the season. He completed only 20 of his 27 pass attempts for 296 yards, but 96 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the outcome had been decided. He and the Gophers hit some of the big shots they've utilized all season through the air (Rashod Bateman caught six passes for 147 yards), but the weather, combined with Wisconsin's defense, made it difficult to find consistent success.
Wisconsin will now get a chance to earn revenge against Ohio State. Earlier this season, the Badgers lost to the Buckeyes 38-7 in Columbus. Wisconsin kept things close in the first half, but Ohio State took over in the second. The Buckeyes outscored the Badgers 28-7 and finished the day with 431 yards of offense. Wisconsin was held to 191 yards. The Buckeyes also held Jonathan Taylor to 52 yards on 20 carries; by far his worst performance of the season.
Wisconsin's six appearances in the Big Ten Championship Game are more than any other program in the conference. The Ohio State team the Badgers will play is right behind them with five. Michigan State, which has been to the game three times, is the only other Big Ten program to appear more than once.