For the second time in three seasons, the Wildcats are set to face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes sit fourth in the country in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and open as 20-point favorites as they look to cement their Playoff case. Here are three things to know about OSU before Saturday’s matchup:
Their offense is explosive (again)
What has made Ohio State one of college football’s premier programs of the last two decades is its constant revolving door of NFL offensive talent. The Buckeyes have a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Justin Fields, who is surrounded by a bevy of impressive wide receivers. The unit averages a conference-best 532 yards and 47 points per game.
Even without a running back like JK Dobbins or Mike Weber, Ohio State still gets it done on the ground to maintain a balanced attack. Fields averages 281 yards through the air and uses his legs to contribute to the team’s 251 rushing yards per game. There is a dynamic playmaker everywhere you look. Through the air, the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best in Chris Olave along with breakout star Garrett Wilson. On the ground, Master Teague and Trey Sermon create a more than capable running back duo that complements Fields; dual-threat ability.
The secondary has been exploited
The weak link of this Ohio State squad is the secondary. The Buckeyes give up a conference-worst 269 passing yards per game and were exposed against Indiana, when IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. torched them for 491 passing yards and three touchdowns.
In that game, Penix repeatedly beat Ohio State on the deep ball. The Hoosiers completed five passes of 30+ yards, three of which went for scores. Those stats may be a bit inflated due to Indiana trailing practically the entire game, but that game was not the only one in which they struggled against the pass. PFF ranks the OSU secondary 37th in the country. Northwestern’s, by comparison, is fifth.
OSU wants to make a statement
Despite consistently proving itself as one of the strongest programs in the nation, Ohio State’s legitimacy as a College Football Playoff contender has been in question since the day the Big Ten announced football was back on. The discrepancy in games played for Ohio State (5-0) versus teams such as Clemson has been a topic of debate the entire season.
On Thursday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told The Rich Eisen Show, “if I was on a committee, it would be hard for me to leave out a 10-1 Texas A&M or an 11-game Florida team over a team that’s played six games.” It’s clear he’s taking a shot at the Buckeyes, who will at best be 6-0.
For as much as Northwestern has been disrespected this season, OSU has heard that they how they should be kept out of the playoff since they played so few games. This is no doubt a motivation for Ohio State, who will step into Indianapolis looking to silence the skeptics.