Connect with us

Five Questions as unbeaten Buckeyes roll into Big Ten title game

Garrett Wilson-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson shined in the win over Michigan. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Five Questions as unbeaten Buckeyes roll into Big Ten title game

COLUMBUS — An exhausted, relieved Ryan Day sat down at a table after his first rivalry win at Ohio State, and it didn’t take long to figure out just how little thought he had put into the Big Ten title game.

In case anybody was wondering if the first-year coach of the Buckeyes might look past Michigan knowing that his team would have a conference title opportunity and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff up for grabs no matter what happened on Saturday, Day admitted he didn’t know what time the West Division title game was even going to start.

And the eventual winner wasn’t going to make a difference for his approach, either.

Ohio State was locked in solely on the Wolverines on Saturday, and then they were going to enjoy the latest evisceration of the hosts in the Big House on the bus ride home after the 56-27 win. And once that entire process was complete, Wisconsin is about the get the exact same treatment before the matchup on Saturday night in Indianapolis.

“I think we’ve done a good job of staying [focused] on one week at a time,” Day said. “And it’s even one day at a time, because if you start to think too far ahead, you get yourself jammed up. .. The focus had just been on this game and making sure that we were ready to go, now we’ll figure out what’s next.

“That’s the way we’re going to do it, and that’s the way we’ve done it all year.”

The results speak for themselves for the unbeaten, top-ranked Buckeyes as they look to claim a third consecutive conference championship. And as the week of preparation kicks off, Lettermen Row is setting the table as always with Five Questions for Ohio State before the rematch with Wisconsin.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is dealing with a knee injury that limits his explosiveness. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

How much will knee issue slow Justin Fields?

There hasn’t been any doubting the toughness for Justin Fields for months since the first-year starting quarterback wasted little time at Ohio State establishing himself as one of the most resilient, competitive guys on the roster. So, there’s no question that Fields will be out there on Saturday night at Wisconsin, just like he was last week at Michigan after becoming an instant legend by popping out of the medical tent to promptly throw a touchdown pass. Fields is dealing with a sprained ligament in his left knee that requires a bulkier brace than he prefers, and that does appear to be scaling back his explosive rushing ability a bit. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to get back to full strength by kickoff, but it will bear monitoring to see just how close he can get.

What does Chase Young have in store for Wisconsin?

The last time Chase Young saw one of the most respected offensive lines in the country, he torched them for four sacks that officially stamped his Heisman Trophy candidacy as legitimate. Can Wisconsin adjust with a rare second crack at the Buckeyes? Odds are the Badgers are going to have their hands full, because Young will no doubt be even more fired up after being held without a sack last week against Michigan. The superstar junior saw more double- and triple-team blocks than he has all season, finishing with just a pair of quarterback hurries on the stats sheet. And while that still doesn’t quite tell the complete story of his impact on the win, Young will be motivated not to let that happen again.

Chase Young-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young made an impact against Michigan without having a sack. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Will Shaun Wade be back for Ohio State?

After going through warmups and dressing for The Game, it looked like a sure bet that Shaun Wade would get the go-ahead to play after entering the weekend as a game-time decision at Michigan. The green light didn’t come for the redshirt sophomore, and the Ohio State defense sure missed him during a rocky first half. Given the versatility that allows him to play essentially anywhere in the secondary, Wade has been one of the most important pieces of the remarkable turnaround for the Silver Bullets this season. And while Wisconsin has a relatively limited passing attack, Wade can also help against the run and would be a huge boost overall for Ohio State as it tries to match the dominant work it delivered in the first meeting back in October.

Does rematch factor hurt Ohio State at all?

Yes, Wisconsin will want revenge after yet another blowout loss at the hands of the Buckeyes. But motivation isn’t going to be a factor for either side in a championship game, and the Badgers getting picked apart in the Horseshoe in October is really just a reminder that they simply don’t have the same personnel as Ohio State. Drawing on his professional experience, Ryan Day has already compared the second meeting to what happens all the time in the NFL when division opponents play twice every season. Ohio State has multiple coaches on the staff who have been through that process before, and they won’t be caught off guard by having to come up with a new (or tweaked) game plan for a previous opponent. Talent is usually what matters more than any kind of motivational ploy, and the Buckeyes have the clear edge there.

Which Heisman case will get strongest closing argument?

Chase Young has already done some special work against the Badgers, and the defensive end might need a similar outing to solidify his invitation to New York. After adding to his insane statistics and delivering a signature Heisman Moment, Justin Fields would appear to be a shoo-in for the ceremony. And now J.K. Dobbins is coming off an outing that has reinforced his claim as the best tailback in the country. It’s not out of the question that all three of those superstars could wind up with enough votes to be named as finalists, although it might be tough since there’s a possibility they’ll be splitting votes as teammates instead of Ohio State having one clear-cut nominee. But those Buckeyes all have one more game on a big stage to make their case, and it will be fascinating to see how they perform in Indianapolis with a trophy on the line.

11 Comments
avatar
6 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
Buck NutMatt EJeffdan lucasBrian yakata Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Go Bucks!
Guest
Go Bucks!

Love to hear Coach Day had yet to think about anything beyond “The Game”…makes me a proud Buckeye!

dan lucas
Guest
dan lucas

another big question that stood out to me in the first half: there has to be a decision made on werner and borland in pass coverage. many of pattersons yards came against them in the first half. i find it impossible to believe that LSU/clemson/baylor/OU would NOT try and exploit this.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

It’s beyond frustrating to watch. Yes those two improved from last year but why don’t we see more of Pope or Mitchell or Gant?

Matt E
Guest
Matt E

Werner has been fine, if not great in coverage. Specifically the Penn St game. Borland is a run stuffer, plain and simple.

Buck Nut
Guest
Buck Nut

Also why is Brendan White not in there playing? Is he red shirting? Injured? Lost his talent? What is going on that we aren’t hearing more Brendan White after this breakout games last year and all off season about the “bullet” position he would play.

Brian yakata
Guest
Brian yakata

Do not think wisky can change result. Speed, talent and gameplan goes to the bucks. Would rather keep garrett away from return game. Too dangerous. With guys running full speed, to risky for the 5 star garrett.

Brian yakata
Guest
Brian yakata

Also tsun has been on revenge tour for 20 yrs.

Matt E
Guest
Matt E

Would be interesting to see a different strategy for Chase and the defense on a few passing downs….have him drop in coverage and blitz Werner or Harrison. Do so to confuse the oline and keep them guessing.

Buck68
Guest
Buck68

is some trophy “on the line”?

or is the competitive game on the line for the B1G Champion contenders?

what is the meaning of the distinction… or does it ‘not matter’?

GO BUCKS!

dan lucas
Guest
dan lucas

are you 6 years old?
it’s the Big title game – the winner wins the Big championship. what is so hard to understand?

Buck Nut
Guest
Buck Nut

It decides who win the Big 10 championship. How do you seriously not know this?!?

Avatar

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.

To Top