Altvater: Buckeyes rout Badgers in Big 10 championship game, gain playoff berthWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The Wisconsin Badgers were four-point favorites heading into the Big 10 Championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday evening, even though they were a two-loss team.
Ohio State, with just a single loss, was ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff ranking and was on the outside, dreaming of a spot in the inaugural college playoffs.
Wisconsin had strung together seven straight wins after suffering a 20-14 defeat at Northwestern in October. They also recorded a loss to, at the time, No. 13 ranked LSU in their first game of the season on Aug. 30.
Wisconsin was running the ball with the greatest of ease against opponents. Heisman-hopeful running back Melvin Gordon led the nation with over 2,300 total yards and was averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
Ohio State was down to an unknown third-string quarterback after their second-stringer went down with a broken ankle in the Michigan game. Red-shirt freshman, J.T. Barrett became the starting quarterback after pre-season Heisman candidate Braxton Miller injured his shoulder.
Barrett had led the Buckeyes to the Big 10 East title with and 11-1 (8-0) record and looked like a seasoned veteran doing it.
The lone OSU loss came at the hands of a sub-par Virginia Tech team in the second week of the season, when Barrett was still getting his feet wet as the starting quarterback. That loss had been an onus around the Buckeye’s neck all season.
Barrett improved every game after the VT setback and became part of the conversation for the Heisman. One Heisman candidate goes down pre-season, no problem; next-man-up, a red-shirt freshman, gets the job done and carves out his own Heisman aspirations.
Everything changed when Barrett suffered a broken ankle while being sacked in the Michigan game. Odds makers could not imagine that Buckeye coach Urban Meyer would have another superstar quarterback in waiting just yearning to be free.
Remember this name: Cardale Jones. He put on a display of passing acumen rarely seen by a quarterback wearing the Scarlet and Gray. The Bucks scored on five of their first six possessions versus Wisconsin and sprinted to a 45-0 half-time lead over the completely befuddled Badgers.
Jones was 12-18 for 257 yards, with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions. He consistently found his receivers firing strikes down the field. He had four completions of over 39 yards, three of those for touchdowns.
This was definitely not the Woody Hayes-era Buckeyes. This team more closely resembled the Urban Meyer-coached National Champion Florida Gators.
Standing tall in the pocket and firing lasers to his receiving corps, Jones resembled an NFL quarterback rather than a third-string OSU bench warmer.
The Luke Fickel Buckeye defense didn’t play too bad either. All-world rusher Gordon was held to just 76 yards rushing on 26 carries and UW quarterback Joel Stave was constantly running for his life from Joey Bosa and his sack-hungry buddies. The Buckeye defense picked off three of Stave’s passes and held him to 17-43.
The Buckeyes assaulted the Badger defense by air and by land. Jones guided the Buckeyes to a 59-0 shellacking of Wisconsin to garner the Big 10 Championship.
To complete the dream on Sunday, the College Football Playoff Committee awarded Meyer’s Buckeyes a berth in the playoffs versus Alabama on New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl.
The 2014 Big 10 Championship game win over Wisconsin, with a little-known, third-string quarterback at the helm, will go down in Ohio State lore as one of the greatest Buckeye victories of all time.