Big Ten Championship: Badgers vs. Buckeyes
In the fourth championship game we're looking at as part of the #PFFGoesToCollege efforts, the Buckeyes made a big statement and forced their way into the No.4 seed. Ben Stockwell ...
Big Ten Championship: Badgers vs. Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes came into the Big Ten title game needing to make a big statement to overturn their position on the outside looking in to the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes delivered that statement with an emphatic victory over the Wisconsin Badgers and the selection committee was won over, giving the Buckeyes the fourth seed and a Sugar Bowl date with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Ohio State jumped out early and never looked back, capitalizing on superiority in both the run and pass games on both sides of the ball. On defense the Badgers couldn’t cope with Devin Smith on downfield routes and gave up acres of space to Ezekiel Elliot before first contact, not even touching him on either of his touchdown runs. When they had the ball, they couldn’t get Melvin Gordon out of first gear when the game was close for the briefest of moments and, when they went into chase mode, Joel Stave never looked capable of bringing the game back to respectability.
From the fourth of our #PFFGoesToCollege looks at conference championships, some notable performances:
Wisconsin Badgers – Performances of Note
Joel Stave, QB: -7.2
Breakdown: There really weren’t any glimmers of positives for the Badgers last night in a performance that every player will be desperate to forget. The game situation put the burden on Stave at quarterback and he simply couldn’t get the offense going at any level. On short passes he was 10-of-18, 7-of-16 on intermediate throws and 0-of-7 on deep passes; no joy to find here.
Signature Stat: Two of Stave’s three interceptions came when he wasn’t pressured; on 17 of his 46 dropbacks when not pressured, he completed just 3-of-14 passes.
Marcus Trotter, ILB: -5.5 & Derek Landisch, ILB: -2.0
Breakdown: Singling out individuals in a disastrous team performance is a perhaps a little unfair, but Wisconsin’s inside linebackers produced solo displays to epitomize the team performance. Unable to even get close enough to the likes of Ezekiel Elliot to lay a finger on him at times the Badgers simply had no response to the Ohio State ground attack.
Signature Stat: This duo did at least record seven of the Badgers’ 16 team defensive stops.
Austin Traylor, TE: -5.8
Breakdown: The story of the night for Wisconsin was a team individually outmatched by Ohio State’s superior talent and it was Traylor who all too often fell victim to Joey Bosa, among others in the ground game. The standard play for the matchup saw Bosa standing up Traylor to read the run before throwing him aside to make the tackle or at least disrupt the run in a one-on-one matchup as uneven as the team encounter.
Signature Stat: Out in a route 17 times, Traylor was targeted only once, adding to his poor day as a run blocker he was ruled to have fumbled on the play, though replays suggest he may never had had possession in the first place.
Ohio State Buckeyes – Performances of Note
Michael Bennett, DT: +6.5
Breakdown: Wearing No. 53 to honor his late team-mate Kosta Karageorge, Bennett produced a performance full of emotion and dominated the Badgers’ offensive line in both run and pass games. His four stops were split evenly between run and pass game including a forced fumble both as a run defender and pass rusher; Bennett was simply too hot to handle for the Wisconsin offensive line and their ball-carriers.
Signature Play: Forced the fumble from Melvin Gordon with 1:27 left in the second quarter to set up teammate Joey Bosa for a scoop and score, Ohio State’s last score of 38-0 first half demolition job.
Devin Smith, WR: +3.1
Breakdown: Thanks to the size of their lead, the passing game wasn’t a feature for the Buckeyes yesterday, but Smith still left an indelible mark on the Big Ten title game last night with his speed down the field. On the field for only 11 pass plays Smith was targeted four times, converting all of them into either a first down (one) or touchdown (three). Even if the pass from Cardale Jones wasn’t always on the money in terms of timing the Wisconsin defensive backs simply couldn’t get into a position to cover him.
Signature Stat: Smith’s Yards per Route Run figure reads more like a yards per catch figure for most receivers; 137 yards on 11 snaps in route, 12.45 yards per route run. The highest single game mark in the NFL this season is 9.53 by Kenny Stills last weekend in Pittsburgh.
Doran Grant, CB: +6.2
Breakdown: The Buckeyes outmatched the Badgers all over the field and that was no different in the defensive backfield where Grant had Alex Erickson in his pocket all night long. Targeted seven times, five of them to Erickson, Grant surrendered just one catch for 11 yards late in the first quarter. Grant got his hands to four, however, breaking up two and snagging a couple of interceptions in the second half of the rout.
Signature Stat: His first interception came with 21 seconds left in the third quarter, breaking across a throw behind Alex Erickson to set his offense up in scoring range once again.
PFF Game Ball
Picking out one individual from a dominant team performance such as Ohio State produced is tough, but Michael Bennett certainly separated himself last night with a consistent, dominant performance on a defensive line that declared itself ready for a bigger test.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.