On Saturday, the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers in the 2019 Big Ten Championship Game. The two teams met on Oct. 26 in a bit of a rainstorm at Ohio Stadium, and OSU ran away from Wisconsin (literally) to the tune of a 38-7 beatdown.
The rematch, a month and a half later, will likely determine Ohio State’s seeding in the College Football Playoff, and whether or not the Badgers represent the B1G in this season’s Rose Bowl.
To get some insight into how this game might be different than the last time, we talked to Bob Wiedenhoeft the Deputy Manager for our Badgers sister site Bucky’s 5th Quarter. You can interact with him on Twitter @rwiedenhoeft (and trust me, after you read the article, some of you are probably going to want to!).
LGHL: Since we got into a spirited discussion with some Wisconsin fans on Twitter earlier this week, feel free to make the case that Jonathan Taylor deserved the Big Ten Running Back of the Year Award over the obviously far more deserving J.K. Dobbins.
Bob Wiedenhoeft: My thought experiment to answer this is what would happen if you traded Dobbins for Taylor straight up this season? I think both would drop in production very slightly. To put a finer point on it, Taylor would tear up Wisconsin’s defense, and Ohio State would hold Dobbins to 50 yards or so. I would be fascinated to see how Taylor would fare in spread / RPO / read option looks, and I think it would be interesting how Dobbins would do in a pro style offense.
They’re both excellent players who are even better fits at their respective universities and programs. I think Taylor got the edge because he is perceived as the only good player at Wisconsin (which isn’t true), and Dobbins lost out because OSU would probably still be undefeated without him (which may not be true).
Finally, I think every single award could go to Ohio State. The entire first team should be just OSU players, and you could give Ryan Day coach of the year. Instead, we’re all stuck with P.J. Fleck as coach of the year, which indicates that we shouldn’t take these awards so seriously.
LGHL: The first match-up between these teams this season feels like it happened a decade ago. What’s changed the most for the Badgers since late October?
Bob Wiedenhoeft: The defense carried Wisconsin through the first six games, and then it started showing a soft underbelly against Illinois and later OSU. The defense still is a step back from its incredible six-game run to star the season, but the offense has taken several steps forward since the loss to OSU.
Most importantly, I think Wisconsin was a bit shaken after the Illinois loss leading into Ohio State. It does have its swagger back.
LGHL: In the two previous times that Taylor has faced Ohio State, he’s averaged 46.5 yards on 17.5 carries per game. What can the Wisconsin offense do to get him to a level against Ohio State that is even approaching what he’s done against everyone else this season?
Bob Wiedenhoeft: Taylor is not going to run for 100 yards on Saturday. However, I think he could crack 100 yards receiving. Honestly, I have no idea, but I have a feeling Jack Coan is going to have to throw for 300 yards for the Badgers to have a chance. Taylor won’t be a factor on the ground in traditional run concepts against OSU, but he could be a factor if they put Taylor in unique packages and find ways to throw him the ball.
I’ll make a useless prediction: Taylor is likelier to throw for a touchdown against OSU than run for 150 yards.
LGHL: J.K. Dobbins pretty much had his way in the first game, while Justin Fields was effective, but limited. How do you anticipate the Badgers attempting to defend the OSU offense?
Bob Wiedenhoeft: I don’t. This is the ultimate bend but don’t break game--Fields and Dobbins will get theirs. The key is holding off big plays for OSU and playing solid red zone defense. Forcing OSU to settle for several field goals would go a long way towards an upset.
LGHL: What is your final score prediction and how do you see this one shaking out?
Bob Wiedenhoeft: Five years ago, I watched the second half of the B1G championship at an Indianapolis bar after my fellow Badgers fans joined me in leaving at half time. We were stunned, and we knew something was up. Later that week, Gary Andersen, known BFF with Urban Meyer, resigned as the head coach. Did Andersen throw the game in a spectacular fashion to let OSU get into the playoffs and win the Natty? My lawyer says I should avoid answering that question for fear of a libel lawsuit. Intentional or not, Wisconsin undoubtedly handed OSU the path to the national championship five years ago.
My public prediction is that OSU will return the favor, and Wisconsin wins 58-0. (My twitter is @rwiedenhoeft — the hate makes me stronger.)
LGHL: How much did Badger fans enjoy beating P.J. Fleck… and the Gophers too, but mostly P.J. Fleck?
Bob Wiedenhoeft: You know when you were a senior on the high school chess team, and the cocky freshman comes in talking smack? You smash the kid a couple of games, and you let your guard down for the third game and he pulls off the upset. Now he won’t shut up about it. He’s telling your friends, your girlfriend and your teachers. People snicker at you in the hallway. He goes on to win a small beginners tournament and he brings the trophy to school and parades it around.
Then, you beat him blindfolded and he shuts the hell up?
Yeah, it’s like that if that freshman also says he’s the co-champion afterwards.
The No. 1 Buckeyes will play the No. 8 Badgers at 8 p.m. ET from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 7. The game will be broadcast on FOX.