COLUMBUS — There is one more hurdle in front of Ohio State, and none of them have tripped it up yet.
Don’t expect that to change now.
Yes, it’s pretty unusual for the Buckeyes to have to double back and clear the same obstacle twice in the same season. And, of course, there is the potential for two more games after the Big Ten title game for No. 1 Ohio State is it chases a national title. But Saturday night against Wisconsin in Indianapolis is a huge deal for the Buckeyes for so many reasons, starting with the simple fact that winning the conference crown is a primary objective for the program — and this would be the third in a row.
“I think it would be huge,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “To go win this thing undefeated would say a lot about our team. The last couple years there’s been that trip up along the way, then we had to rally to go win that. I thought that said a lot about the character of the program both last two years. This one is a little bit different. Now it’s more about can we sustain this level of play throughout this regular season, now into this championship season. That’s the challenge.
“That’s something that we’ve been focused on week in, week out. Now here we go. Head towards that finish line the last, you know, homestretch. Then after we get done with that we come up for air and figure out what’s next. All our eyes are on that finish line.”
The Buckeyes have had no trouble finding their stride this season, and they’ve already got one blowout victory over the Badgers to their credit. The Lettermen Row staff is unanimously picking Ohio State to win again at Lucas Oil Stadium, so the guys are all again digging a little deeper with Five Bold Predictions about how that matchup will play out with the Big Ten title on the line.
Austin Ward: Chase Young finally draws holding flag for Ohio State
Maybe the officiating crews have recognized the dominance and simply want to give opponents a fighting chance. Honestly, it’s hard to find any other explanation for why they’ve completely ignored even the most blatant holds against Chase Young over the last couple weeks, including two on a single snap that directly led to a touchdown last week at Michigan. Ohio State doesn’t do much public working of the referees, but it’s reached a point where the program had to send some clips to the league office to get the attention of all the infractions that have gone uncalled and slowed down the junior defensive end. That vaunted Wisconsin offensive line has already proven it can’t stop Young legally, so the Big Ten officiating crew might need to pay a little closer attention this week — and maybe drop at least one flag.
Jeremy Birmingham: J.K. Dobbins goes over 200 yards rushing again
The Buckeyes are going to lean heavily on the legs of J.K. Dobbins this weekend. And, yes, Wisconsin is going to sell out to stop him and put the onus on Justin Fields and his damaged knee to beat them. But it’s not going to matter. It’s not going to change anything because Dobbins is running harder each week than he did the week before, and the confidence being gained by the Ohio State offensive line will carry them through this rematch with the Badgers. Dobbins and another 200-plus yard game is going to be the key to Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game as the Buckeyes look to cement their spot as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoffs.
Tim May: Chris Olave scores three touchdowns for Ohio State
One could make numerous arguments about Buckeyes being slighted in the All-Big Ten teams announced this week. So, here’s the case for sophomore receiver Chris Olave, a mere third-team member on the squads chosen by the coaches and the media: He might be second in total catches behind K.J.Hill on the top-ranked team in the country, but Olave has been a consistent safe-cracker with a team-leading 11 touchdown catches and he has averaged 17.2 yards per catch. More to the point for the outrageous prediction: Consider he had a season-high seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns when the Buckeyes bushwhacked the Badgers in October. Accounting for the cost-of-winning inflation, let’s up those numbers to at least eight catches and three touchdowns this time around.
Spencer Holbrook: Malik Harrison scores defensive touchdown
It’s pretty crazy to see that Ohio State only has one defensive touchdown this season, but that’s the case. Malik Harrison has had numerous opportunities to get his hands on the football, but he has been unable to finish the play so far. He dropped an easy interception that would’ve went the other way for a touchdown just a couple weeks ago. Jonathan Taylor shouldn’t be able to run on the Buckeyes, so Jack Coan will have to throw. If he throws over the middle, Harrison will finally get a pick, and he might just take it for a touchdown in a Buckeyes blowout.
Will Crall: Jonathan Taylor will get bottled up by Ohio State again
In another head-to-head battle, J.K. Dobbins is again going to prove why he’s the best tailback in the Big Ten. Although, to be fair, he doesn’t have to run against the Buckeyes defense, which is again going to make life miserable for Jonathan Taylor and hold him under 100 yards. Dobbins was snubbed this week for Big Ten Running Back of the Year honors, which went to Taylor again. Although I’m sure he wouldn’t admit it, Dobbins will have extra motivation to prove that he’s better than Taylor — and the Silver Bullets will certainly have his back. Bonus prediction: Dobbins will rush for over 200 yards and get an invite to New York for the Heisman.