Sunday, November 26, 2017

Buckeyes and Badgers collide with plenty on the line in the 2017 Big Ten title game

With the Big Ten regular season in the books, the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes and the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers hook up in the conference title game on Dec. 2,with the winner earning at worst, an automatic berth into the New Year’s Six.

Both teams come off impressive rivalry wins on the road on Nov. 25 as Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) defeated Michigan for the sixth straight season, 31-20 and looks for its second victory in the title game since its inception in 2011. Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) prevented Minnesota from becoming bowl eligible with a 31-0 win to put a cap on back-to-back West division titles.

The Buckeyes have dominated in recent years with five straight wins over the Badgers— highlighted by a 59-0 win in the 2014 Big Ten Championship game.

In order for Wisconsin to overcome its past woes, tight end Troy Fumagalli will be counted on then some to make critical plays when called on.

The senior has amassed 460 yards on 36 receptions and three touchdowns this season and could cause matchup problems for Ohio State as it was exposed by Iowa for its inability to cover in that position, which contributed to the 55 points allowed in a 31-point loss on Nov. 4.

Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s stats have not been your eye catching, 15-second click bait commercials on YouTube with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Hornibrook also has a chip on his shoulder after letting the game slip away in the last meeting against Ohio State in a 30-23 loss in overtime on Oct. 15, 2016.

Wisconsin star running back Jonathan Taylor could be in for a long night against a talented Ohio State defensive front led by defensive end Sam Hubbard. Hubbard made Michigan quarterback John O’Korn’s life miserable as he totaled 2.5 sacks and five total tackles in the 11-point win. Expect the junior to make Hornibrook and Taylor’s championship game a long one.

Do not count out Wisconsin’s defensive either as it has made life miserable for all 12 opponents this season and has played a key role in being the last undefeated team among the Power Five conferences. The Badgers lost senior inside linebacker Jack Cichy to a season-ending knee injury in training camp and could have easily folded things. Instead, Wisconsin rallied as a unit and has surrendered no more than 20 points once this season (33-24 W over Northwestern on Sept. 30).

Expect Ohio State/Wisconsin to be a defensive battle and a reminder as to why the Big Ten can deliver throwback, low-scoring games in an era where most fans embrace basketball on grass.

Game Itinerary:

No. 9 Ohio State (East Champion) vs No. 5 Wisconsin (West Champion)

Site: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

Time: Saturday, 8:17 p.m. ET

TV/Online: FOX/FOX Sports GO

Commentators: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft (sidelines)