Northwestern and Ohio State will meet to decide who takes home the BIG Ten title on Saturday at noon from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Big Ten Championship game is the definition of a lopsided matchup.
Northwestern will attempt to do the unthinkable and dethrone the defending conference champs. Ohio State is coming into Saturday as the fourth-ranked team in the land. They’re not only one win away from a Big Ten Championship, but they’re also sixty minutes away from a berth to the college football playoff.
Northwestern will enter Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday as a massive underdog. The Wildcats are 6-1 on the year with their one loss coming on the road against Michigan State. Even though the odds heavily favor the Buckeyes, America shouldn’t be so quick to count out the Wildcats.
Let’s take a look at the odds for Saturday’s contest.
Big Ten Championship Game – #14 Northwestern vs #4 Ohio State
Saturday, December 19th at 12:00 PM EST
Lucas Oil Stadium
Moneyline: Northwestern (+790) Ohio State (-1500)
Point Spread: Northwestern (+20.5) Ohio State (-20.5)
Over/Under: 57.5 Points
Did Someone Say Disrespect?
The Big Ten wasn’t the best conference in football this year. You don’t have to be a college football fan to realize this fact. Only five out of fourteen teams in the league have a record of .500 or better. Northwestern is a good football team and if you think they can’t play with Ohio State you should go take a look at the tape.
Nobody expected Northwestern to play for the Big Ten crown in Week 1, but they found a ticket to play Goliath on Saturday. Offensively, the Wildcats couldn’t be a more balanced unit. They only average ten yards per game more passing than they do on the ground.
Northwestern shines in the run game. If the Northwestern offensive line can play physical in the trenches with the Ohio State front seven, the Wildcats have a great chance on Saturday afternoon. Two backs will carry the load for Northwestern. Sophomore Drake Anderson leads the team in rushing, but he’ll be complemented by Isiah Bowers who thrives in short-yardage situations.
Northwestern is phenomenal on defense. This has been the Wildcats’ secret to success all season long. The team is only giving up 14.6 points per game which put the Wildcats at the top of the Big Ten in this statistical category.
Everything To Lose
Ohio State is one of the best programs that I have seen play all year. However, it’s never easy being a heavy favorite. Ohio State has everything to lose if they’re not victorious on Saturday. There are a few important notes to remember with the Buckeyes if you’re considering a bet on this game. Ohio State has only played five games in 2020. Their games against Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan were canceled this season.
The team has only been in one fight in 2020 against #9 Indiana. The Buckeyes ended up winning that game by one touchdown. Nobody gave Indiana a shot in that game and the Hoosiers found a way to cover. Ohio State knows how to win, but they haven’t been forced to make many plays with the game on the line this year.
The Buckeyes ride or die with quarterback Justin Fields. The 6’3” junior has the second-highest QBR in the nation at 94.8. Fields has lit up scoreboards all over the country in his time as a Buckeye. He is completing close to 80% of his passes, but he is by no means invincible. Fields has thrown three interceptions in five games this season, but this hasn’t come back to hurt the team just yet.
Ohio State is fantastic on defense as well. They’re allowing 23 points per game, but they are stout all over the field. Every yard needs to be earned against the Buckeyes. They don’t make anything easy for opposing offenses. The heart and soul of the Ohio State defense is LB Pete Werner. He leads the unit with 32 total tackles on the season.
Big Ten Championship – The Matchup
I know Justin Fields receives an insurmountable amount of press when it comes to Ohio State’s 2020 success. Fields will need to play well on Saturday for his team to win, but this game is going to be determined in one location: THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE.
The matchup to watch all afternoon will be the Northwestern offensive line versus the Ohio State front seven. Ohio State gives up less than 100 yards per game on the ground, so the Wildcats will have a big test on their hands inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday. If Northwestern is able to move the football on the ground, they’ll be able to play with Ohio State. If Ohio State shuts down the run, this game will be over in the first half.
Northwestern has a great defense when it comes to points allowed, but Ohio State will still score. Ohio State is scoring 46.6 points per game, so the coaching staff knows how to pick apart an opposing defense. Northwestern has to contain the Ohio State offense and force a few turnovers to give their team easier scoring opportunities.
The odds will slowly shift to the Wildcats if Ohio State doesn’t put Northwestern away early. Northwestern will need to weather the indefinite Ohio State storm and stay alive for the fourth quarter. If they’re able to make this happen, I think we will see one wild finish in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Big Ten Championship – The Picks
I’m not going to touch Ohio State on the moneyline or at -20.5. The moneyline won’t bring a solid payout unless you go all-in on the Buckeyes and I can’t say I’m overly confident.
I think the Buckeyes will win, but it’s going to be a dog fight all afternoon. I love Northwestern at +20.5. The Wildcats are 5-1-1 ATS this season and 1-0 as underdogs.
These two teams have opposite blueprints. Ohio State competes in high scoring contests and goes over when it comes to all totals. Northwestern plays hardnose football and this style has shown in their over/under record this year. I’m going to take the under in this game.
Ohio State won’t be able to score at will against Northwestern. They’re going to have to drive the ball down the field because of the “bend, but don’t break” play of the Northwestern defense. Northwestern doesn’t score a lot and they love to run the football. This keeps the clock moving and doesn’t typically light up the scoreboard.
I’m locking in Northwestern at +20.5 and under 57.5 points.
It’s officially conference championship season in college football! Every Power 5 conference will host a championship game this weekend and I will be covering each event on the Sports 2.0 network. Make sure to follow me on IG @tannerkern Twitter @tannerkern_ so you’ll be fully prepared for championship weekend!