Buckeyes face Badgers in Big Ten Championship

4x6 footballBY LUKE BAUER

For the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) and the Wisconsin Badgers (10-2), the Big Ten Championship game is fast approaching. It will be the first meeting between the teams this season with everything on the line for the Buckeyes: a potential trip to the College Football Playoff.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the timing could not be worse. In last Saturday’s win over Michigan, redshirt freshman JT Barrett fractured his right ankle during the fourth quarter.

Barrett is Ohio State’s second-string quarterback behind Braxton Miller, yet has had one of the most remarkable seasons in the country. Barrett was responsible for 45 total touchdowns (a Big Ten record), the winner of the Big Ten quarterback of the year award, and a front-runner for the Heisman trophy.

Ohio State now must turn to third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, who will be receiving his first career start for the Buckeyes. Jones is a 6’5” 250 pound sophomore out of Cleveland, Ohio, who has had plenty of time to learn the workings of head coach Urban Meyer’s offense since arriving at Ohio State in 2012.

It is hard to say how he will deal with the pressure of such an important game, but head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman assure that he will be ready come Saturday.

In addition, the Buckeyes must cope with the loss of Ohio State defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge as he was found dead on Sunday near campus from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The team has had a difficult week, and it will be interesting to see how they manage on Saturday against a powerful Wisconsin team.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, comes into the game off a 34-24 victory over rival Minnesota and plenty of determination to fight for the win in Indianapolis.

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for 2,260 yards, a Big Ten single-season record, and 26 touchdowns in the Badgers’ twelve games this season. Gordon is a front-runner for the Heisman trophy award and is one of the few players in history to eclipse 400 rushing yards in a single game.

Gordon and the Badgers may not have a chance to make the College Football Playoff, but this will certainly not slow them down.

The Buckeyes will have their hands full on Saturday night, and it is up to Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes to weather the storm.

A win for the Buckeyes would give them their first Big Ten Championship in nearly four years, and a good argument to make the selection committee’s four-team playoff.

Time will tell how the Buckeyes’ season finishes, but a win in Indianapolis this week is crucial.