The Ohio State Buckeyes held off Wisconsin and claimed their first Big Ten Championship since 2014, winning 27-21 on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Buckeyes, ranked No. 8 in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings, will await their playoff fate on Sunday. The fourth and final playoff spot likely will come down to Ohio State (11-2) or Alabama (11-1). The Crimson Tide were No. 5 last week but didn’t play in a conference championship game. With wins on Saturday, Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia are the likely top three teams in the final rankings.
Ohio State led 21-10 at halftime. Each team traded field goals in the third quarter. Wisconsin but Ohio State’s deficit to 21-13. Then Ohio State’s Sean Nuernberger pushed the lead back to 11 points with a 27-yard field goal.
The Buckeyes had several opportunities to add to its lead in the third quarter but went 3-and-out on one possession. Then J.T. Barrett threw his second interception.
After the Barrett interception, Wisconsin cut the deficit to 24-20 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris James with 12:39 left in the fourth quarter. Prior to that touchdown, Wisconsin had gone 3-and-out on its previous two drives.
J.K. Dobbins led the Buckeyes with 174 yards on 17 carries and was named the game’s MVP. Barrett completed 12 of 26 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Buckeyes built a 21-10 halftime lead on the strength of three big plays.
Terry McLaurin caught an 84-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to open the scoring. Parris Campbell turned a short catch into a 57-yard touchdown. A 77-yard run by J.K. Dobbins set up a 1-yard touchdown run by a Barrett.
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Here’s a quick recap of the rest of the first half:
Key player: Barrett earned the start despite having a knee procedure Sunday and didn’t look slowed in the first half. He completed 8 of 16 passes for 182 yards and rushed eight times for 31 yards.
» GAME COVERAGE: Seven things to know about Big Ten title game | Game preview | Barrett will play | Laser focus for Buckeyes| Five storylines | Big Ten history | Rivalry history | Playoff possibility | 8 local connections | Championship breakdown
Key plays: Wisconsin is in the game because of two turnovers by Ohio State. Barrett threw an interception that was returned nine yards for a touchdown by Andrew Van Ginkel. Mike Weber lost a fumble at the Ohio State 11-yard line that Wisconsin turned into a field goal.
Key stat: Ohio State held Wisconsin standout freshman running back Jonathan Taylor to 25 yards on 10 carries.
Missed opportunity: Ohio State almost stretched its lead to 28-10 just before the half. Barrett overthrew a wide-open Johnnie Dixon in the end zone. Wisconsin blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Sean Nuernberger to end the half.
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