Ohio State-Wisconsin | Ray Stein's Bottom Line
The first half of the Big Ten championship had Ohio State fans seeing stars and asking scary questions: Is this Iowa? Or West Lafayette? But that's why they play two halves of football. Besides, Buckeyes fans will feel better today knowing what their team is made of. Hint: It's a paper stock that doesn't easily fold. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein
Justin Fields looked like the Tin Man through much of the first half, such was his mobility with that bulky brace. But a leaky line was the bigger problem. There were no such issues in the second half as Fields found his targets — Jeremy Ruckert needed only one hand — and J.K. Dobbins churned butter with all the hard yards.
This is a simple math equation, students: Minus-1 leaf in each of the first two quarters, when added to five leaves in the second half equals three leaves that can look either good or bad, depending when one checks it. The tackling and coverage were atrocious for a while, and then they weren't. A switch was flipped, and suddenly the defenders weren't flops.
Special teams (4)
Drue Chrisman wasn't too busy with his right leg, punting only twice, but he showed a swell right arm with his fourth-down toss to Luke Farrell; it's a shame the Buckeyes couldn't cash in that bit of trickery. The OSU punt rush also forced a nervous bobble that provided fantastic field position; too bad it led to only a field goal.
Lest anyone doubted the importance of halftime adjustments, Ryan Day and his staff showed they're not a relic like one-platoon football. Whoever lit the matches in the halftime locker room, it was obvious that OSU came out smoking in the third quarter, and soon the Badgers found themselves on the barbecue. Taste like chicken?
Ohio State played by far its worst half of football this season and went to the locker room trailing by 14. To some degree, it conjured memories of the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Alabama, when the Buckeyes trailed by 15 and stormed back. That one got OSU to the title game, though; this one just assured a top-two seeding. More fun to come.
Jack Coan looks like a journeyman pitcher who threw enough off-speed junk to keep a great hitting team off-balance, but eventually the Buckeyes got their timing down and started ripping shots to the alley. Coan was a first-half revelation, and Jonathan Taylor showed his stuff, but the Buckeyes proved to be too strong. Roses?
Wisconsin fans almost dropped their cheese when officials somehow missed — or ignored, conspiracy theorists? — Garrett Wilson's blatant false start on OSU's go-ahead touchdown pass. How do you miss that? The Badgers also were hurt by an iffy interference call, and the Buckeyes' Damon Arnette was called for a ticky-tack personal foul.