BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#5 Wisconsin Badgers (12-0) vs. #8 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
8:15 PM Eastern Standard Time
This season’s Big Ten Championship Game may lack some of the star power of the other games featured on Championship Saturday (see the PAC 12 and SEC contests if you’re looking for the games with the most sexy NFL Draft ramifications this weekend), but there’s going to be double digit players in this contest who find themselves on rosters at the start of the 2018 NFL season.
The Big Ten Championship game has College Football Playoff ramifications as well, making this game an enticing showdown of teams with very different backgrounds and pathways to this point.
The Buckeyes, as they have been under Urban Meyer for years, are a lot of flash. The spread offense attack is highlighted by a dual threat passer and exciting youth at the skill positions. Defensively, the Buckeyes’ two deep is a whose who of NFL stars of tomorrow. With sophomore DE Nick Bosa the best of the bunch, it’s a super talented group up front, one that figures to break down many offensive game plans.
One game plan potentially able to withstand the Buckeyes’ onslaught? Wisconsin. The Badgers are heavy hitting, blue collar and grind down teams on both sides of the football. TE Troy Fumagalli entered the season as a favorite NFL prospect off this Badger team, but EDGE Garret Dooley has done wonderful stepping into the shoes of former Badgers TJ Watt and Vince Biegel (now in the NFL).
As they always do, the Badgers pound the rock and do so courtesy of a super physical offensive line. Strength will meet strength when the Badgers have the football, which will make for an entertaining game.
Wisconsin EDGE Garret Dooley vs. Ohio State LT Jamarco Jones
Dooley is more nuanced that one may expect on first look. Yes, he’s a grinder. But he’s got great hands, which is a staple of Wisconsin EDGE players in recent years. He will be tested by the Buckeye’s Jones who measures in around 6’6 and has the length that NFL evaluators will love in a potential franchise Left Tackle.
Jones has been a terrific player this year for Ohio State and has helped this offense settle in after some rocky performances early in the season. This should be the best individual prospect match-up on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night. Expect both players to get their share of plus reps.
Ohio State QB JT Barrett vs. Wisconsin SAF D’Cota Dixon
Here’s hoping Barrett will be good to go, as it sounds like he will be. After an unfortunate incident on the sideline against Michigan last week, Barrett looks to finalize his legacy as a college passer with a few more wins.
Barrett is a player that, for all his accolades, hasn’t been able to take the next step as a pro prospect. Without promising levels of anticipation or the ability to throw accurately with consistency, the expectation for him going forward is low. But as is the case with many players at this level, Barrett is capable of getting hot and finding his desired read on time, making him difficult to stop (just ask Penn State, who would be playing for a CFB Playoff spot if not for a massive collapse in the 4th quarter to Barrett and company in October).
Safety D’Cota Dixon will be his counterpart across the line of scrimmage and a strong performance would do well for him as the Badgers prepare to enter the bowl season. Dixon is a senior who projects as a depth player with a possibility of being a key special teamer at the NFL level. He’ll need to tackle well and keep the screws tight in coverage if the Badgers hope to continue their perfect season.
Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli vs. Ohio State LB Jerome Baker
Baker still has eligibility left, but his fast to flow style of play is tailored for today’s NFL game. He’ll have a fun match up with Fumagalli, who owns an edge in physicality and size. Yet Baker is the one who has a clear trump card with his explosive skill set.
If there’s a player match up that perfectly embodies the styles of each time, it’s this one. Baker has had a down season, so him effectively eliminating Fumagalli could go a long way in reestablishing some of the positive buzz he had around his name this summer.
Ohio State DL Dre’Mont Jones vs. Wisconsin OG Beau Benzschawel
Remember road grading OT Ryan Ramczyk? The mountain of a man who was selected in the first round by the New Orleans Saints this past spring? There’s an interior model of the same template playing Right Guard for the Badgers this year: Beau Benzschawel.
At 6’6, 310 lbs, Benzschawel plays with a heavy hitting set of hands and is an effective blocker when tasked with moving either side to side or straight ahead. A redshirt junior, Benzschawel is an impressive specimen who could potentially boost a top heavy interior offensive line group this year.
Across the way is upstart redshirt sophomore DT Dre’Mont Jones for the Buckeyes. Jones’ statistics aren’t necessarily something to write home about, but his value extends beyond sacks and tackles for loss. Jones has proven over the course of the season to be effective on the interior, playing with both a strong anchor at the line of scrimmage and showcasing the ability to get hip to hip in gap penetration reps.
Benzschawel will be essential for the Badgers’ offensive game plan to materialize, as this team loves to run the football. Keep an eye on this match up being an important one for the outcome of the football game.
Wisconsin LB TJ Edwards vs. Ohio State C Billy Price
The best prospect on the Buckeyes this year? It could be Billy Price. Price is a nimble footed hammer on the interior for Ohio State, his ability to stop on a dime to mirror second level defenders is highly impressive.
He’s not necessarily an elite athlete for the position, but he’s a good athlete for his size. He’ll find the same thing waiting for him on the other side of the line of scrimmage in Badgers’ LB TJ Edwards. Edwards is listed at 6’1 and 244 lbs, he carries his weight well but isn’t a true “rangy” MLB. What he is is a player with a great nose for the ball and good football IQ.
The cat and mouse game between these two on Saturday night will be one of the more fun individual showcases, be it between the tackles or out in space in front of potential runs.