Game will be played on a neutral site at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana
After an emotional week that included the death of one player, a season-ending injury to the starting quarterback and a win over its rival, Ohio State must focus on the task at hand. The sixth-ranked Buckeyes try to do just that when they meet No. 11 Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game Saturday in Indianapolis. Cardale Jones starts under center after J.T. Barrett broke an ankle in Ohio State’s 42-28 defeat of Michigan, hoping to help his team impress a playoff committee that ranks the Buckeyes fifth.
Wisconsin, which won the Big Ten title game in 2011 and 2012, has been riding Melvin Gordon’s incredible run through the course of a seven-game winning streak and is primed to give its star running back plenty of work, despite an ankle issue that popped up in last week’s 34-24 triumph over Minnesota. “It’s got me on high alert and the only thing I can do is listen to Melvin Gordon, because I know Melvin is going to tell me what his mindset is — and he will be 100 percent ready to roll on Saturday,” head coach Gary Andersen told reporters this week. Gordon, who was limited to 74 yards in last season’s encounter with Ohio State, first turned heads in the 2012 conference title game, producing 216 yards in a rout of Nebraska.
TV: 8:17 p.m. ET, FOX.
LINE HISTORY: Since opening at Ohio State +4, the line briefly jumped to +4.5 Monday before coming back to the opening point. The total has yet to shift from the opening 52.5.
INJURY REPORT: Wisconsin – OL Ray Ball (Ques-Leg), OL Dan Voltz (Ques-Ankle), OL Trent Denlinger (Ques-Undisclosed) Ohio State – QB J.T. Barrett (Out-Ankle)
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “I had Ohio St. a solid 3.5 point favorite before the injury and I think Wisconsin now being offered at -4 is way too much of an overreaction by the betting markets. Urban Meyer is a brilliant coach and with two weeks to prepare his young, athletic new starting QB Cardale Jones, I don’t envision Ohio St. having trouble moving the ball on offense. While this total opened 54, it’s been bet down to 53 and I don’t understand the instant under money here. We’ve got two very good offenses, Wisconsin scoring 34 or more points in 6 of their last 7 games. Ohio St 42 or more points in 8 of their last 10 games.This game being played in a dome and on a fast track.” – Peter Childs of Sportsbook.ag
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Surprising role change for the Buckeyes who figured to enter this game as a 3-point favorite before quarterback J.T. Barrett when down with a broken ankle. Not sure he was a 7-point QB, though. Urban Meyer’s glossy 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS mark as an underdog in his last seven tries goes head-to-head with Gary Andersen’s 18-8-1 ATS record in games when facing an opponent with a better record. The bottom line is this game has ‘whoever scores last wins’ written all over it.” – Covers Expert Marc Lawrence
ABOUT WISCONSIN (10-2 SU, 5-7 ATS, 6-5-1 O/U): Gordon and the Big Ten’s top defense gain the bulk of the headlines, but quarterback Joel Stave has quietly picked up his game after sitting out four games to start the season due to throwing issues. Stave, who threw for 2,494 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2013, completed just 48 percent of his passes and had three TDs versus three interceptions through his first four games but has a 66.7 percent completion rate with four TDs and one pick over the last four. “He is seeing the field very, very well,” Andersen said after Stave threw for 215 yards and a pair of scores – including the clincher with 4:41 left – against the Golden Gophers.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS, 10-2 O/U): Head coach Urban Meyer’s lone loss in 25 games as a Big Ten coach came in last season’s title game against Michigan State, and his resolve during a tough week has his team pointed in the right direction. “We believe in a very, extremely close team that leans on each other in tough times and someone usually steps up and makes a tremendous play or says something,” said Meyer, whose team learned on Sunday that defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge had been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Meanwhile, Jones – a sophomore who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 250 pounds – gives the Buckeyes plenty of athleticism at quarterback, having averaged 7.8 yards per carry on 43 rushes in his career.
*Badgers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games.
*Over is 12-1 in Buckeyes last 13 vs. a team with a winning record.
*Under is 4-1-1 in the last 6 meetings.
*Underdog is 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 56.91 percent of Covers users are backing Wisconsin -4 with 58.1 percent on the over.