The Buckeyes limped out of the gate but managed to recover to beat a pesky Indiana 34-20. With the win, they keep their hopes of playing in the inaugural Big Ten championship game alive.
Here’s a breakdown of the race heading into this weekend.
Penn State still maintains a two game lead over the Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions begin a tough three game stretch to end their season. They will host Nebraska this weekend then have consecutive road games at Ohio State and Wisconsin to close out their schedule.
What has been most impressive about the Nittany Lions to this point is their ability to play consistently well enough to win. They won’t win style points with their fashion, however; they are the only team in the conference taking care of business. Their defense is good enough to keep them in each of their remaining games. If the offense finds another gear, they could win two of the three.
In order for the Buckeyes to be able to leapfrog their Pennsylvania counterparts, they must win the head-to-head matchup and hope for some help. It’s more likely Penn State would struggle with Wisconsin than they would with Nebraska but if either team beats the Nittany Lions and Ohio State wins out, they would earn the trip.
Which brings up the next question; can the Buckeyes win out?
The Buckeyes’ last three games are challenging. Ohio State begins the stretch with a trip to Purdue then the home showdown with Penn State and finally a trip to the Big House to play Michigan. It’s not that the Buckeyes don’t possess enough talent to beat all three teams, it’s a matter of which team shows up in those games.
Ohio State’s biggest liability will be their defense. Their erratic play and tendency to give up big plays through the air could spell doom, especially in their last two games. While the defensive line has done a remarkable job, the back seven continues to make mental mistakes. If they haven’t grasped their assignments within the first nine games of the season, chances are they won’t in their last three either.
Which brings me to a bold conclusion; Ohio State won’t win out.
They will win two of the three. This will likely send them to a New Year’s Day showdown against an SEC team (barring any NCAA bans). Now if the defense manages to improve and lock down their weaknesses, it could change Ohio State’s course. For the time being, they haven’t showed us enough consistency to bet on them.
Feel free to contact Sean with any questions or comments.