NCAA Football News

Big Ten Championship 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for Wisconsin and Ohio State

Urban Meyer and No. 5 Ohio State flexed their muscles and proved themselves as the class of the conference, hammering No. 13 Wisconsin in a 59-0 shutout loss in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday night. 

The Buckeyes (12-1) put on a show as they claimed their first Big Ten title since 2009, out-gaining the Badgers (10-3) by 293 yards. Cardale Jones was brilliant playing in place of the injured J.T. Barrett, leading Ohio State to a huge victory in his first career start.

How did the Badgers and the Buckeyes grade out from the surprising blowout Saturday night? 

 

Wisconsin Badgers Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Wisconsin's offense is most successful when it's featuring running back Melvin Gordon, but due to the blowout nature of the game, quarterback Joel Stave received a heavy workload. That wasn't a good thing for the Badgers, as he completed just 17 of 43 passes (39.4 percent) for 187 yards and no touchdowns. Most of that work came in the second half, when Stave threw 28 passes for 129 yards, as the Badgers were desperately trying to claw their way back into the game.  

Run Offense: Wisconsin entered the game with the nation's No. 2 rushing offense, averaging 334.3 yards per contest. The Badgers were fueled by Gordon, a Heisman Trophy candidate who leads the country with 2,260 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. But Wisconsin was completely shut down by Ohio State, rushing for just 78 total yards on the game. Gordon was held out of the end zone for the first time all year, and the Badgers managed just 2.1 yards per carry.

Pass Defense: Going up against Ohio State's third-string quarterback, Wisconsin was consistently gashed, especially on the deep ball. The Badgers surrendered 257 passing yards on just 18 pass attempts from the Buckeyes. The three touchdowns they gave up—all of which went to Ohio State's Devin Smith—were an average of 41.7 yards. 

Run Defense: Wisconsin's run defense was even worse. Ezekiel Elliott had his way with the Badgers defense, running for 220 yards (a Big Ten title game record, previously held by Melvin Gordon) and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. In total, the Buckeyes bulldozed their way to 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 38 carries, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

Special Teams: The Badgers could have used a big play (or several big plays) from their special teams to provide a spark, but it was an uninspired night at every level. Drew Meyer had a busy night, averaging 41.1 yards on eight punts. But Kenzel Doe couldn't shake loose against Ohio State's kick coverage team and averaged just 19 yards on six returns. 

Coaching: Gary Andersen and the Wisconsin coaching staff were thoroughly outclassed by Meyer and Ohio State. The Badgers failed to rattle a quarterback who was making his first start on one of college football's biggest stages, and in the end, nothing Andersen did helped his team keep pace with the high-flying Buckeyes. 

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Many thought Ohio State would play it conservatively without Barrett, but Jones came out and lit the Wisconsin defense up. The sophomore signal-caller threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone, and Smith was the big beneficiary, hauling in three passes for 95 yards.

The Buckeyes pounded things out on the ground in the second half as Jones attempted just four passes in the final two quarters. He finished with 257 yards and three touchdowns, all of which ended up in the steady, secure hands of Smith. 

Run Offense: Elliott got the Buckeyes off to a fast start in the first half, breaking off an 81-yard touchdown run on the third drive to put Ohio State up by 14. That run alone accounted for more rushing yards than Wisconsin managed in the entire game as the Buckeyes pounded their way to 153 yards in the first half. 

Up 38-0 to start the third quarter, Ohio State stuck to the ground attack with great success. Elliott finished with a game-high 220 rushing yards, and Bri'onte Dunn and Curtis Samuel combined for 70 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. That helped the Buckeyes pile up 558 total yards against the nation's No. 2 total defense.

Pass Defense: Ohio State's offense actually guided Wisconsin to play directly into the strength of the Buckeyes defense. Trailing by such a wide margin, the Badgers were forced to throw into Ohio State's vastly improved secondary. That proved difficult as Ohio State's defensive line, led by Joey Bosa, terrorized Stave all night. The Badgers missed on 26 of their 43 pass attempts, and the Buckeyes came up with three interceptions (two from senior cornerback Doran Grant). 

Ohio State only gave up 187 passing yards as Wisconsin averaged a meager 4.3 yards per pass attempt. 

Run Defense: Ohio State's run defense was even more impressive as it shut down the nation's leading rusher in Gordon. Coming into the game averaging an incredible 188.3 rushing yards per game, the Badgers running back was shut down by the Buckeyes, gaining just 76 yards on 26 carries. The Buckeyes also forced Gordon to fumble near Wisconsin's goal line, which Bosa scooped up and returned four yards for a touchdown. It was an encouraging performance for Ohio State, which had surrendered 584 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns to the last four running backs it had faced. 

Special Teams: Cameron Johnston had another incredible night, averaging 53 yards on four punts. His 73-yard boot in the first quarter that pinned Wisconsin at its own 2-yard line was the special teams play of the game. The Badgers came close to blocking a couple of Ohio State's punts, but Johnston was able to get his four attempts off cleanly. The only hiccup of the game came early in the fourth quarter when Wisconsin blocked a 30-yard field-goal attempt from Sean Nuernberger.

Coaching: Offensively and defensively, Ohio State completely dominated Wisconsin Saturday night. That was the result of a perfect game plan by the coaching staff that was executed flawlessly by the players. Chris Ash and Luke Fickell called their best game of the season, registering a historic shutout. Meyer, Tom Herman and the offensive staff knew exactly what they had in Jones, and they put him in the perfect position to trigger the blowout. From play-calling to game management, the Buckeyes didn't miss on Saturday night, and they're Big Ten champions because of it. 

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 15

It was championship week and fans expected plenty of playoff drama to unfold. We all wanted chaos. 

While chaos may still ensue with six teams having legitimate claims to four spots, most games ended up being blowouts this week with the exception of the ACC Championship Game, which Florida State won 37-35 to earn itself an undefeated season for the second-straight year. 

Only 13 teams in the Week 15 AP Poll were in action—nearly all of them in conference title games. That'll create some interesting poll shuffles, as six of the 13 ranked teams lost. 

So how will the season's penultimate AP Poll pan out? Here's our best crack at figuring that out. 

 

Risers

Clemson

Despite having the week off, the Clemson Tigers should move up quite a few spots in this week's poll. They were positioned right behind the Oklahoma Sooners, who coughed it up against Oklahoma State this week. Couple that with the other teams losing in conference championship games, and the Tigers should be a Top 15 team heading into bowl season.  

 

Marshall

Rakeem Cato and Co. avenged last week's loss to Western Kentucky with a win over a decent Louisiana Tech team in the C-USA Championship Game. Not exactly a Power Five title, but the Thundering Herd still have 12 wins on the year and should climb back into the polls after falling out last week.  

 

Fallers

Oklahoma

Saturday's home loss in the Bedlam game to Oklahoma State in Norman was not only embarrassing for the Sooners, it was also its fourth of the season. Oklahoma was pegged as the Big 12 favorite at the start of the season—instead it has been turned into a mediocre team at best. Losing to Oklahoma State to give the Cowboys bowl eligibility was a huge blow that should knock the Sooners out of the polls altogether. 

 

Wisconsin

The Badgers won't be punished for losing to Ohio State—they'll be punished for how they lost. A 59-0 shutout victory for the Buckeyes put Wisconsin, which had been rolling since Melvin Gordon's massive game against Nebraska a few weeks ago. Now the Badgers will be reeling from a morale-crushing defeat heading into bowl season and will suffer in the polls because of it. 

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