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Snap Judgments: Ohio State rallies for Big Ten crown, earns playoff berth

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields worked through a knee injury to win the Big Ten title. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Snap Judgments: Ohio State rallies for Big Ten crown, earns playoff berth

INDIANAPOLIS — The Ohio State throne wobbled a bit, but it’s definitely still standing.

The Buckeyes are Big Ten champions yet again. And they are a dead-solid lock to return to the College Football Playoff.

All that’s left for the current No. 1 team in the nation is to wait and see exactly where it will be seeded on Sunday afternoon. But it arguably was at its most impressive this season in the second half when it proved exactly how well it can handle adversity, overcoming a two-touchdown deficit with an absolutely dominant second half to beat No. 8 Wisconsin on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

So, the reign continues for the Buckeyes, this time with Ryan Day in charge. And now the chase for more hardware begins.

There’s much more coverage of the championship-winning effort for Ohio State coming at Lettermen Row. But as always, it starts right here with Snap Judgments.

Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State answered the challenge from a tough Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State leaves no doubt about championship heart

The biggest dose of adversity Ohio State has faced all season arrived. It never blinked, and Wisconsin again brought out the best in the Big Ten champions. Whether it was Justin Fields battling through an injury, a defense adjusting on the fly to early problems or even overcoming self-inflicted wounds, the Buckeyes earned everything as they punched a ticket to the College Football Playoff. It would have been easy for Ohio State to fold the tent and believe it had already done enough to to earn a spot without digging deep to rally from a 14-point deficit. But Ryan Day has a bunch of fighters on his roster, and that outing might mean more than any that came during the regular season.

Justin Fields handles injury fine, knee not to blame

Justin Fields stayed out a little longer during warmups to test the knee brace on his left leg, and he clearly wasn’t thrilled to be wearing it. The Ohio State quarterback was still able to run, still delivered a few pinpoint throws and didn’t seem to be all that significantly bothered by the sprain. But he appeared a little hesitant in the pocket in the first half and coughed up another costly fumble in the red zone, making for probably the second mixed-bag start of his career with the Buckeyes. Wisconsin deserves credit for ramping up the pressure on him, but it didn’t appear to be all that different from what he had faced previously this season and he was really just a touch off on a couple plays that could have changed the game — most notably the overthrow of Chris Olave in the first half and missing a wide-open Luke Farrell in the red zone. Just like he’s done all season, though, Fields proved he was a warrior with a gritty effort to lead the comeback.

Baron Browning-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning helped the Buckeyes rally in the second half. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Defensive intensity, tackling slipped for Ohio State

The message on the way to the locker room from a couple Buckeyes at halftime: Too many one-person tackles. All season, the Silver Bullets have prided themselves on the collective effort of the defense, arriving to the football with multiple players all ready to make the play and bring a ball-carrier to the ground. That wasn’t quite the case during a sloppy first half, and the Badgers had a game plan and the kind of athletes who could exploit any mistakes by Ohio State. The strange development for the Buckeyes was the relative lack of a pass rush after hanging their hat on that presence up front all season, and it lowered the degree of difficulty for Wisconsin and dug the two-touchdown hole. The Buckeyes woke up in the second half, the effort returned and everything flipped with the intensity roaring to life.

K.J. Hill remains Mr. Reliable for the Buckeyes

The redshirt senior is going in the record books because of his remarkable consistency. But he shouldn’t be overlooked for his knack for delivering in the highest-pressure situations for Ohio State, answering the bell with tough grabs, athletic runs after the catch and momentum-swinging touchdowns. His go-ahead score on Saturday night was emblematic of Hill’s entire career, and then he went out and topped it with the clincher. He might never be the flashiest guy on the depth chart for Ohio State, but he’s always there when the program needs somebody to make a big play for the passing attack.

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Edward Rasp
Edward Rasp

They looked vulnerable tonight against a lesser team and survived. When and if they play LSU’s or Clemson they will get buried.

Brunstar
Brunstar

When they scored 27 unanswered points against a Top 10 team?

Steve Borysiak
Steve Borysiak

Ohio State played 5 ranked teams and beat them by an average of 25 pts and PLAYED NO FBS teams.

LSU played 4 ranked teams and won by an average of 14 pts and PLAYED AN FBS team.

I’ll let myself out.

Brian yakata
Brian yakata

Lsu is hot. I have always been a cool joe fan. We can beag anybody but we have to start hot.

Nate
Nate

*FCS

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Edward, add a G to your last name and do that to reality. Hater.

John R Dayton
John R Dayton

I will definitely NOT forget this comment after the Buckeyes win it all. Will you be man enough to show up?

Brunstar
Brunstar

KJ Hill set the record for Ohio State career receptions. Called it.

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

he only needed 4 more receptions….how brilliant of you!

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Again, Pete Werner SUCKS!!!!!!

Jeff
Jeff

I hate to hate on a player or the LBs as a whole but it’s just painful to watch Pete and Tuf and more painful to see Browning get juked by Badger QB. I love watching Pope and Mitchell (and White) bring it 2nd half blowouts so it’s just a head scratcher that we don’t see more of the backups…

Jim Grushon
Jim Grushon

Don’t know what you are watching but Borland and Warner played great this year. Warner plays the scheme he is given, rarely is he out of position. Ask Al Washington or Jeff Harley how he is playing. Maybe as a fan you don’t understand their role. We play 3 corners and a safety, Warner’s job on the outside is to close the outside and make the ball go to the middle, often in man he is one on one with Tight Ends, and frankly he has played very well.

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

I played linebacker, and again, PETE WERNER SUCKS..He is always out of place, and cannot cover any tight end he is assigned to. I could go on and on ….Lets see where he gets drafted. Bet you he will go in the 6th or the 7th round, goes through camp, and gets cut. He is too small. He has noodles for arms. After that he might sell insurance for Nationwide. I personally think Al Washington should be fired after 1 season.

Jeff
Jeff

I’m watching the same games you are, but to say Borland has been great, erodes your credibility. I won’t say he and Pete suck bc that’s hyperbole but I don’t think Tuf has done well. Pete has had a good year but has had trouble tackling sometimes. I love tuf’s leadership and that was on display when things got chippy Saturday.

Go Bucks.

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Give Mickey Marotti 3-4 weeks to whip the boys into premier shape in the weight room……. I Dont care where the Buckeyes are ranked, any way you look at it we have 2 very tough games ahead of us in order to win a Natty. Even though I am partial, I still feel the Buckeyes should take the #1 seed considering their resume. No other team has beaten 5 top 15 ranked teams, they have the #1 yards per game defense, and the #1 ranked scoring offense. GO BUCKS!!!!!!!!!! Thank God I no longer have to watch another game with Joel Klatt and Gus Johnson as commentators. They make me ill……

Jeff
Jeff

I prefer Gus and Joe to ABC/espin options and since Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles are calling games elsewhere these days…

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

LOL!!!!!!! Keith Jackson was the worst…..wherever did he go………..? hmmmmmm

Jim Grushon
Jim Grushon

We don’t have 3 weeks, we have 20 days to figure out the hardest team to beat in the playoff. LSU does not scare me anywhere close to my concern for Clemson. I hope we will be ready both physically and scheme wize.

Brian yakata
Brian yakata

We need to focus. All these coaching rumors can distract a team. We just need to keep our eye on the ball.

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Funny how LSU wont even have to travel in the playoffs. The SEC is always set up perfectly to gain an edge on other conferences. They play only 8 conference games, and throw in an FCS opponent in late November, while every other conference (except the ACC of course) is in the final grind of the season. The Buckeyes had to play THREE top 13 opponents to get where they are to finish the season. LSU played ole Miss, Arkansas and A&M. And Clemson played Wake Forest, South Carolina, and Virginia. And to listen to that punk Brady Quinn tell off Urban Meyer in the post game show and say “why do you think Ohio State should be #1, you dont want to play Clemson, huh”?

Jim
Jim

I love going to the game but I don’t know how anybody concentrates with so many different commercial breaks, ridiculous. I am a little concerned about playing Clemson, I would love to see an objective discussion of the match up, not a homer discussion or a fans discussion, actual reporting about what makes them dominate and how OSU will deal with this.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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