25 words or fewer: Death of walk-on Kosta Karageorge casts a pall as J.T. Barrett-less Buckeyes prepare to take on Wisconsin in Big Ten title game.

25 words or fewer

Death of walk-on Kosta Karageorge casts a pall as J.T. Barrett-less Buckeyes prepare to take on Wisconsin in Big Ten title game.

In the polls

Ohio State is No.6 in both major polls, which each list Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, Texas Christian and Baylor as the top five. What matters is where the Buckeyes will be in this week's College Football Playoff rankings. Last week they were No.6.

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Who's hot?

Offensive coordinator Tom Herman, line coach Ed Warinner and the Buckeyes' offense. Barrett went down on the first play of the fourth quarter against Michigan with a season-ending ankle injury. Yet, running back Ezekiel Elliott and the line delivered the play of the game a few moments later with a 44-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that clinched a third straight victory over the Wolverines. But just how hot Herman and Co. are will be judged by the way they bring new starting quarterback Cardale Jones along this week in the most crucial of times for the Buckeyes.

What's not hot?

Counting Barrett out of the Heisman Trophy race. He had set a Big Ten record for touchdowns responsible for with 35 (a school-record 34 passing, 11 rushing). He also set a school record for total offense with 3,772 yards (passing for 2,834, rushing for 938). Those numbers still stack up well with the rest of the elite in major-college football this season.

What went right?

The defense delivered some key plays and even got in on the scoring. Defensive end Joey Bosa made up for a couple of penalties by causing a fumble that linebacker Darron Lee scooped and scored with for the team's final touchdown in the fourth quarter. Vonn Bell picked off Devin Gardner's first pass of the day, setting up Ohio State's first touchdown, and giving the sophomore safety his team-leading fourth interception. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten with 18, tied with Utah State for seventh in the country.

Back to the drawing board

The run defense still had some leaks against Michigan, at least before running back Drake Johnson was injured while scoring the Wolverines' third touchdown. Gardner also sneaked out for some timely gains. But that's nothing compared to the fury headed Ohio State's way on Saturday night, when Wisconsin and Melvin Gordon, the nation's leading rusher (2,260 yards) aim their attack at the Buckeyes' front seven.

Dinged up

Barrett underwent surgery yesterday to help set the broken bone in his right ankle. He will not be available for the postseason, but coach Urban Meyer said there's a good chance he could return in a limited basis for spring drills.

Catch that?

Backup receiver Corey Smith had his most active game, and not just tying Michael Thomas for the lead in catches with three, including a diving pluck. He also had a crushing block to help spring tight end Nick Vannett for about 15 yards on a 22-yard play.

Up next

Wisconsin, champion of the West Division, riser from that season-opening collapse against Louisiana State and an early Big Ten upset at the hands of Northwestern. Gordon led the rebound, augmented by the rejuvenation of quarterback Joel Stave and supplemented by the runs of speedy Corey Clement. What makes the Badgers, No.2 in the nation in total defense, more dangerous now is they discovered a passing game in the past couple of weeks.

This week's challenge

The Buckeyes not only must work to help Jones step up quickly at quarterback, but deal with the death of Karageorge, who had been an Ohio State wrestler and walked on to the football team in August as a senior. He went missing from his campus-area apartment on Wednesday morning and was found dead yesterday, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said. Meyer and his staff will have quite the task keeping the Buckeyes on point this week.

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports