(13) Wisconsin Badgers (-4, 52.5 o/u) vs. (5) Ohio State Buckeyes
This Saturday, Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin Badgers (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) will battle a shorthanded Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) for the Big Ten title at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (8:17 p.m. Eastern).
Last weekend’s win over arch-rival Michigan may have been a Pyrrhic victory for the Buckeyes. For the second time this season, the Buckeyes lost their starting quarterback.
In the pre-season, Heisman-hopeful Braxton miller suffered a season ending shoulder injury, leading many to write off the Buckeyes. But up stepped J.T. Barrett to save the day. The redshirt freshman led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record, while breaking the Ohio State record for total offense. I use the past tense because Barrett is now out for the year after suffering a fractured ankle against the Wolverines.
Up next is redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones, who has thrown just 17 passes on the year.
Said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, “You lose one Heisman Trophy candidate before the season starts, and then another guy in game  who’s also a Heisman candidate. That’s a positive that your team can still function. It tells you about the talent and depth on your team.”
Even though Barrett has come out publicly and stated there won’t be any drop-off with Jones, Ohio State fans are holding their breath regarding the College Football Playoff. Not only does the team have to win with the un-proven Jones, but also must convince the committee to move the team up from its current No. 5 ranking.
At No. 13 in the nation, the Badgers have no realistic chance of making the CFP, but they would love to play the role of spoilers.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen has his team running the ball at a record pace behind his own Heisman candidate, Melvin Gordon. The powerful running back ran for a Big Ten-record 2,260 yards this season, including a single-game-record 408 yards against Nebraska.
Andersen admits his star running back’s number of carries remains a concern. “It’s got me on high alert and the only thing I can do is listen to Melvin Gordon, because I know Melvin is going to tell me what his mindset is. He will be 100 percent ready to roll on Saturday,” said the coach.
Linebacker Curtis Grant stated the obvious, “[If we] stop Melvin Gordon, I think we’ve got a great chance.”
That’s a big if. The Buckeyes have been good, but not great against the run this season, surrendering 145 yards per game on the ground (40th in the nation).
Though Jones is untested, look for the entire Buckeyes team to rally around their new starter, especially after being named a four-point underdog. That’s why taking Ohio State’s money line (+167) is the play.
(Photo credit: Phil Roeder (flickr) “Wisconsin Beats UTEP” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
Let's have fun and keep it civil.