Saturday, December 2, 2017

No. 8 Ohio State 27, No. 4 Wisconsin 21: Buckeyes shake up the playoff discussion behind Dobbins' 174 yards

                                                     Photo Credit: Ohio State Athletics

INDIANAPOLIS— Ohio State’s College Football Playoff hopes are not a guarantee, but its dominance against Wisconsin is another story.

The No. 4 Badgers came into Saturday’s game with an FBS-best 80.5 yards per game allowed on the ground, but the No. 8 Buckeyes bucked the trend through a dominant performance from J.K. Dobbins.

The true freshman amassed 174 yards on 19 carries en route to an Ohio State (11-2) 27-21 win over Wisconsin (12-1) in the 2017 Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Even with the effort, Dobbins gave credit to the offensive line— specifically Billy Price.

"A lot of people doubted us coming into this with our ability to run the ball," Dobbins said. "I have an All-American (Billy Price) at center and I am so grateful that I got to play with him because he makes things a lot easier for me.

Fresh off surgery on his knee six days ago, J.T. Barrett played as if nothing ever happened with methodical deep passes for touchdowns to Terry McLaurin (84 yards) and Parris Campbell (57 yards).

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer never gave up in Barrett and believed he could return to full form.

"It never does. That's just because -- I've had (Tim) Tebow and this kid's a lot like him. How you keep him out of a game, I just don't know how it happens," Meyer said. "I was skeptical. I had one other player come back within a week from a scope and he played it."

Barrett proved to be as cerebral on the ground with 60 yards on 17 carries, highlighted by a fourth-and-1 run halfway through the fourth quarter as he turned a turnover on downs into a first down, which led to a 21-yard field goal from Sean Nuernberger to go ahead 27-21 with 5:20 left.

True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor came in as one of the top running backs in the FBS with 1,765 yards was held to season-low 41 yards on 15 carries courtesy of the Buckeyes defense.

As expected, the defenses dominated from the outset as the Buckeyes and Badgers went three and out on their opening drives.

Things looked to be solid gold on Wisconsin’s next drive for Alex Hornibrook as he went 4-of-4 for 55 yards through the air, but two plays later would let it all collapse as first team All-Big Ten defense Denzel Ward turned around and came up with the INT at the OSU 4.

Ohio State took advantage of the turnover as Barrett connected to Terry McLaurin as he beat Wisconsin safety Joe Ferguson over the middle for an 84-yard touchdown reception to go up 7-0, which highlighted a four-play, 96-yard drive.

After a Wisconsin punt, which saw Natrell Jamerson down the ball at two-yard line, Ohio State looked to produce another 90-plus yard scoring drive, but linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel had other plans as he read Barrett’s pass and ran back a nine-yard INT return for a touchdown to even the score at seven.

When things appeared to turn, Barrett showed the poise as a senior with a 57-yard TD hookup to Parris Campbell to put OSU back up 14-7.

As the pace appeared to pick up, things turned back down a notch as both teams punted on their next drives before Dobbins ran from 77 yards out on the halfback draw as no Badger appeared to be in site until a tackle from cornerback Nick Nelson at the one-yard line, which set up Barrett’s touchdown from a yard out to put the Buckeyes ahead by 14 points and with all of the momentum early in the second quarter.

Van Ginkel delivered once more with a strip and a fumble recovery on Mike Weber at the OSU 11, which gave Badgers golden opportunity, but settled for a 28-yard FG from Rafael Gaglianone to cut the deficit to 21-10.

The score remained the same into halftime as the Buckeyes dominated in all facets of the game as they rammed the Badgers with 309 total yards.

The Badgers’ offense regrouped and started their second drive of the third quarter with a steady diet of Taylor on the ground, which helped set up a one-handed catch from Davis for 33 yards. Gaglianone converted a 46-yard field goal as Wisconsin pulled to 21-13 at the 10:14 mark of the third quarter.

Dobbins hit the 100-yard mark for the second straight week on a 53-yard run to help set up a Nuernberger 27-yard field goal to put Ohio State back up by 11 as the running game continued to establish dominance.

As Wisconsin’s Chris James punched the ball in from a yard out, a section of the turf came up from the ground and resulted in a slight delay. Hornibrook did not miss a beat after the delay as he connected with a crossing Troy Fumagalli for the two-point conversion to cut the Badgers’ deficit to three.

The Badgers would get no closer as the Buckeyes added a field goal from Nuernberger to bring a ton of debate as to whether or not a Big Ten team will get a spot in the CFP on Sunday afternoon.