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Wisconsin, Ohio State to play for Big Ten title

BY CODY GOODWIN | DECEMBER 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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This Saturday, No. 6 Ohio State hopes to keep its outside chance at the first-annual college-football playoff alive when it plays No. 11 Wisconsin in the fourth-ever Big Ten Championship game. Kickoff is set for 7:17 p.m.

The Buckeyes, 11-1, 8-0 in conference, enter on a 10-game winning streak, but will be without starting quarterback J.T. Barrett. The redshirt freshman fractured his ankle in the regular-season finale win over Michigan last weekend.

Barrett took the reins of Ohio State’s offense — which ranks fifth nationally in scoring and 11th in total offense — after Braxton Miller went down with a shoulder injury before the season began. Barrett will sit out Saturday night’s game against Wisconsin, which boasts the second-best total defense in college football.

In his place will be Cardale Jones, a sophomore who saw the field sparingly this season. Barrett talked with reporters earlier this week, and only praised Jones, going as far as to say that Jones could’ve produced similar results this season.

“Cardale is a great player," Barrett said Wednesday. "I honestly feel like if I wasn't starting this year, Cardale would have done the same things I did this year. Cardale is that talented. He definitely can do it.”

Though the Badgers, 10-2, 7-1, will field the fourth-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 16.8 points per game (to compare: Ohio State scores 44.1 points per contest), perhaps their biggest threat comes on the other side of the ball, in the form of running back Melvin Gordon.

Gordon, a junior — and former Iowa commit, by the way — is believed by many to be a front runner for the Heisman Trophy. He’s rushed for 2,260 yards this season, and has scored 26 rushing touchdowns this season.

“We’ve played him before, and I’m not looking forward to watching that video,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said.

The Buckeyes beat the Badgers last season, 31-24, and largely held Gordon in check: just 15 carries for 74 yards and no touchdowns.

Still, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen believes it will take a full team effort if the Badgers are to win their third Big Ten title game in four seasons.

“Urban’s offensive philosophy is to obviously use the best players,” Andersen said. “And he’s done a tremendous job of that through the years. I don’t expect that to change.

“… There’s talent all over that field. They’ve done a tremendous job of recruiting. Recruiting is everything in this business. Coaching is way overrated. They have a lot of good players that you have to look out for. They are coached the right way. They have a plan on both offense and defense that gives those players a chance to succeed, and that’s the most concerning thing to me.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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