Finally, it's here: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State for the Big Ten championship. Can the Badgers get it done and pick up their third win in the game's four-year history, or will the Buckeyes overcome the loss of quarterback J.T. Barrett to cap an almost-perfect season?
Ohio State's offense is the biggest story coming into this one, as Barrett was lost to a fractured ankle in OSU's regular-season finale vs. Michigan. In steps Cardale Jones, the sophomore who will be making his first career start Saturday night. Here's B5Q's Kyle Vos in his scouting report on Jones, a 6'5, 250-pound beast of a quarterback:
For those looking for the footnotes, here's a summary of Jones: He's a massive sophomore (6'5, 250 pounds) with good straight-line speed and a rocket for an arm, but has little experience, elusiveness and many questions surrounding his accuracy and decision-making.
It's definitely a different skill set than the one Barrett possessed, but I wouldn't expect the offense to change too much. OSU went through a similar change last year when Kenny Guiton had to replace an injured Braxton Miller, and OSU in large part trusted its quarterback-friendly system. With that in mind, I believe Jones' quarter of play against Michigan will serve as a decent preview of what Wisconsin should expect in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, brings the same, old story to Indy: Melvin Gordon, Melvin Gordon, Melvin Gordon. The Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year has enjoyed a record-breaking season, but another standout performance against the Buckeyes would launch his legacy at UW into another stratosphere. Solid games from Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy are of course critical, but it all starts and ends with Wisconsin's rushing game -- as always.
Defensive, both of these teams are stout. OSU brings star power in the form of Joey Bosa and one of the nation's top defensive lines. Wisconsin's linebackers have become one of the best units in the country, and it's going to be fascinating to see which defense looks better. One stat of note: Wisconsin ranks eighth in rushing defense at 103.4 yards allowed on the ground per game, while Ohio State ranks 40th with 145.6. Fans of advanced metrics will see a similar picture: Wisconsin ranks 27th in Rushing S&P+, while Ohio State is 56th.
B5Q's Luke Mueller will be covering the game for us live from the Lucas Oil Stadium press box -- he'll be manning @B5Q on Twitter, and you can also follow him at @Luke_Mueller24. Our @B5Q timeline is embedded below so that you can also just follow along here, if you'd prefer.
How to watch/listen
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Molly McGrath)
Streaming: FOX Sports Go
Radio: Badger Sports Network