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There are a ton of factors weighing on the minds of our Badger Of Honor staff the morning leading into the 2014 Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.
This will be Wisconsin’s third conference championship game appearance in four years as the Badgers have won their previous two. Ohio State will be making their second-straight Big Ten title game, having lost to Michigan State a year ago.
Here’s what we know.
Wisconsin must be able to move the football on the ground – whether it’s Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement or thru the read option game with Tanner McEvoy.
If Joel Stave can manage his game and Wisconsin can continue to force their opponent into some uncomfortable situations, it bodes well for the Badgers.
The storyline in front of everything today seems to be Ohio State’s chances at moving into the top four and competing for a National Championship.
If they do, it will be because of their depth at the quarterback position where today, Buckeyes nation will have to turn to sophomore Cardale Jones.
He’s making his first collegiate start of his young career and doing it in quite possibly the biggest game for Ohio State this season.
Here’s what our Badger of Honor staff have to say about the game in Indianapolis, tonight.
JON RZEPECKI – I wouldn’t be surprised if OSU uses Marshall like we use McEvoy instead of the McEvoy-Jones comparison.
OSU is more than just strong quarterback play, but Cardale Jones isn’t the quintessential Buckeye qb like Troy Smith, Pryor or Miller. Instead he seems more pocket prone and stiff in the mold of Craig Krenzel. Our linebackers should be able to spy Jones and at least get an interception.
Wisconsin wins the turnover battle early, but ends drives with more field goals than TDs. Jones’ inexperience shows, however, in the fourth and the Badgers pull away.
SCORE – I take Wisconsin to win, 35-24.
TAYLOR JOHNSON – Ohio State’s Cardale Jones is better than most think, but he’s an unproven and untested quarterback. He might pull off some impressive plays, but at the end of the day is experience or lack there of will show through and the Badgers defense will pounce. Melvin Gordon will have tough sledding for the beginning of the game, but once he wears down the Buckeyes defense it will be over. Wisconsin is favored by four and that’s how much I have them winning by. SCORE – Wisconsin-31 Ohio State-27
JIMMY OXLEY – Wisconsin has made magic happen in the Big Ten Championship. Whether it was a Russell Wilson fourth down prayer-of-a-Hail Mary in 2011 or Melvin Gordon’s jet sweep dominance in 2012, Wisconsin has made things happen on the Big Ten’s biggest stage.
Teams have struggled to rein in Gordon all season. He hasn’t gotten off to the quickest start in the past two games, but he’s a physical runner who continues to get better as defenses fade. Ohio State may slow Melvin Gordon down, much as Minnesota and Nebraska did in the first quarter of the past two games, but I don’t expect they’ll stop him completely. This is almost certainly Gordon’s last Big Ten game, and I expect him to go out with a bang.
The Badgers defense, as well, is looking to cap the Big Ten season with another strong performance, and I believe Wisconsin’s veteran core will get the best of a young, unproven quarterback, and cause a key turnover that gives Wisconsin the edge.
SCORE – I’ll take Wisconsin in a close one, 31-27.
CHRISTIAN ORMSON – Personally with Barrett out I believe we have a blow out at our hands. SCORE – UW 38, OSU 17
DOUGLAS J. ETTEN – The game will come down to execution and turnovers. I think Wisconsin has to do a good job of throwing the ball away when they get pressured, keep themselves away from tight situations and manage the clock effectively. The book isn’t even close to being out yet on Cardale Jones. What we do know is he’s big, physical and can throw the football. All good things you look for in a successful college QB, but the knock is his preparation, maturity and leadership. We’ll see if Wisconsin’s defense can rattle his confidence early and turn a OSU fumble or INT into points early on.
I really think Melvin makes his true Heisman push today. The coaching match-up will be something to watch, also. Maybe Gary Andersen takes a shot with a fake punt, onsides kick or some other trickery. Watch for that early on.
SCORE – Wisconsin 45, OSU 27