Maybe next year: Wisconsin’s Big Ten title hopes are over
The moment Ohio State took control of the ball after a fourth and one stop with 2:43 on the clock on Saturday, OSU effectively destroyed Wisconsin’s hopes of winning the Big Ten Championship and reaching the Rose Bowl for a fourth straight year.
Ohio State has already beaten two of its most threatening opponents in Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road, and now has a cakewalk to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.
Ohio State’s next game is a home contest with Iowa, who was downed by Michigan State on Saturday 26-14. The Iowa defense gave up 412 total yards on Saturday, and the offense managed just 264 total yards, including a meager 23 rushing yards.
After Iowa, Ohio State’s next four opponents in Penn State, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana have a combined record of 10-10.
With the return of senior running back Carlos Hyde, OSU has made a case that it deserves a higher ranking than its current slot at No. 4 in the AP poll. Hyde rushed for a career high 168 yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern.
If Hyde can keep up his rushing pace, the pairing of Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller on the ground will pose some serious problems for Big Ten defenses. Miller has rushed for at least 68 yards in three of the four games he’s played this year.
The one game left on Ohio State’s schedule that should concern Buckeye fans is a date with the Wolverines at the Big House. However, even a defeat on the road to Michigan would give Ohio State just one loss, which would give Ohio State the advantage over Wisconsin in case of a tie in the Leaders division and send the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl for the first time in four years.
Not so fast, Badgers not out of the race quite yet
OK, I’ll be honest. The prospects for a fourth-consecutive Big Ten Championship title are not the brightest for Wisconsin as they prepare to take on Northwestern in a B1G battle Saturday, but don’t count the Badgers out quite yet.
After all, that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?
The road to disaster could begin as early as next weekend for Ohio State when they face Purdue.
I know, you see a team that is 1-4 and got trampled all over the field in Madison to the tune of a 41-10 victory for the Badgers just a few short weeks ago. But what you should see is the only other team besides Wisconsin to nearly take down the undefeated Buckeyes in the 2012 season.
On Oct. 20, in front of a hostile Ohio State crowd, Purdue nearly pulled off a stunning upset — taking Ohio State all the way to overtime before finally conceding a touchdown in the final three seconds to give Ohio State the victory.
While this type of upset seems an unlikely one, the point remains the same: every good team is bound to slip up when they get too comfortable.
Sure it may not be Purdue this year (even though this time the Boilermakers will have the home crowd on their side), but the pesky Penn State Nittany Lions or a tough matchup in Champaign, Ill., could also prove potential upsets for the current Leaders division leader.
All Wisconsin needs is one of those “cupcakes” to step up to the plate and the race for the 2014 title is more than up for grabs. If Wisconsin can beat Northwestern in Madison, it only takes a loss at Michigan and a miracle game from any of the others and Wisconsin will be right back where they belong: the Big Ten Championship.
Sure that may seem like a lot of ifs, but for true Badger fans everywhere, those ifs are all you need.