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Three things we learned...Big Ten Championship

What did we learn from Wisconsin’s second loss to the Buckeyes?

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3 overall, 7-3 B1G) took part in the Big Ten Football Championship against the Ohio State Buckeyes (13-0 overall, 10-0 B1G) for the third time in six years. Unfortunately, the Badgers fell on all three occasions, losing this time by 13 points 34-21.

In this weekly installment, here are three items that I think we learned about the Badgers after the championship loss.

A split personality

If only football was a 30 minute game, am I right?

Wisconsin assembled potentially their best half of football of the season in the first half of Saturday's championship game. The Badgers jumped on Ohio State early, dominating the half to the tune of nearly 300 yards of offense, and a 21-7 lead. In that half Wisconsin had everything rolling, and they looked like a team that was good enough to compete in the College Football Playoff.

It was not to last, however, as Ohio State went on a 27 point onslaught in the second half to win and secure their spot in the playoff instead. Everything that was going right in the first half swung the complete opposite way after the intermission, as Wisconsin could not get anything going offensively against the nations top defense.

Overall, the recipe for an upset win was there, but Wisconsin could not make the plays in the second half to win, and a lot of that had to do with the adjustments made by each team.

Coan and Cephus

Over the course of the season, many fans have clamored for true freshman Graham Mertz to get his shot to overtake Jack Coan at quarterback. Outside of a few moments though, Coan has responded all year long. The junior quarterback finished the year, sans the upcoming bowl game, with over 2,500 yards passing paired with a 70% completion percentage, and 21 total touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. He has played exceptionally well, and showed the ability to extend plays with his legs as he ran strong against Ohio State. Often mild mannered, he demonstrated some excitement and theatrics — all in the first half mind you — that potentially gave a glimpse of what he could continue to build upon for next season.

A big reason for Coan’s play has been the emergence of a go to target. Junior Quintez Cephus has been a revelation this year, and he has the makings of a future pro. Against Ohio State he reeled in seven catches for 122 yards, once again as the primary weapon on the outside. For the season he has accumulated 842 yards receiving and six touchdowns, over double the yardage of the next highest receiving threat.

With both players projected to be back next season, assuming Cephus doesn’t leave early for the NFL draft, the Wisconsin passing game has a bright future next year. With Danny Davis III, Kendric Pryor and Jake Ferguson also factoring into the equation, Wisconsin has the makings of a diverse offense if they can find a replacement for Jonathan Taylor to carry the load.

Bowl bound

While it has been a foregone conclusion that Wisconsin would once again be representing the Big Ten Conference in a bowl, Wisconsin set out Saturday to prove that they deserve a berth to the Rose Bowl. In simple terms, Wisconsin needed to exhibit the ability to hang with Ohio State in order to maintain their ranking two slots ahead of the Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2 overall, 7-2 B1G) in the final College Football Playoff standings. While that is not the only scenario that would result in Wisconsin earning the Rose Bowl, it is, as referenced, the simplest understanding.

After covering the spread, and having Ohio State on the ropes for the first three quarters, I believe Wisconsin did enough to secure their spot in the Rose Bowl.

The Badgers should not be punished for playing Ohio State close in a championship game, while Penn State had the week off.

With the playoff rankings coming out early Sunday, bowl representation should be sorted out fairly soon, and Wisconsin has as good a resume as anyone outside of the projected top four of LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma in no specific order.

Add in the fact that Jonathan Taylor has announced that he will indeed play in the bowl game, and his star power should elevate Wisconsin’s chances of grabbing the roses.