INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State made its case to be included in the American College Football play-off with a 27-21 win against Wisconsin previously undefeated in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday night.
If the committee considers that Buckeyes worthy won will not be revealed until Sunday afternoon.
If selected, the eighth state of Ohio would become the first two-loss team under the current postseason format that will be awarded one of the four spots to compete for a national championship. The Buckeyes are also looking for a second appearance in the College Football Playoff's four-year history.
By winning their second Big Ten championship game, Ohio State (11-2) forged a 14-point lead in the first half and had an 11-point margin in the fourth quarter before the No. 4 Wisconsin will recover The Buckeyes sealed the victory when safety Damon Webb intercepted the final pbad of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook with 69 seconds left.
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"I am extremely proud of our group of players," said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. "This is not an easy season, as they never are, but winning a championship, first to win the Eastern Division, which could be said to be one of the main divisions in the United States, and then face the number four team in the country, I really appreciate our players and I hope that some good things happen in the future. "
Wisconsin had its tiebreaker aspirations almost certainly extinguished after its 13-game winning streak dating back to last season's Cotton Bowl ended in front of a full house at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Badgers (12-1) dropped to 0-5 in the Big Ten championship game and lost for the first time since the game for the title of last year's conference.
Less than a week of knee surgery, Field Marshal J.T. Barrett represented three touchdowns for Ohio State, which accumulated 449 total yards of offense and overcame three turnovers. Running J.K. Dobbins added 174 yards rushing on 17 carries to earn MVP honors, and the Buckeyes kept Wisconsin on an offensive touchdown in front of an announced crowd of 65,886.
Hitting the 20-yard field goal by kicker Sean Nuernberger with 5:20 to play the regulation provided the final margin for the Buckeyes, who held on thanks to a pair of defensive positions in the final stretch.
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An interception from Wisconsin linebacker Jake Collinsworth set up a touchdown that led the Badgers to 24-21 with 12:39 left in the fourth quarter. Running back Chris James of one yard cut the lead to five, and after a long delay to repair a piece of scraped grbad on the goal line, Hornibrook completed a two-point conversion pitch to tight end Troy Fumagalli.
Ohio State moved to the front, 21-7, early in the second quarter in Barrett's one-yard career. His touchdown immediately followed Dobbins '77-yard dash that in the process set Buckeyes' first-year career record, breaking the mark that Maurice Clarett established in 2002.
Wisconsin, which scored its first points in the interception of Andrew Van Ginkel's nine yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, went into a run-off at the start, 21-10, after Rafael Gaglianone's 28-yard field goal with 3:42 left in the half. The Badgers settled for three points after recovering a loose ball in the Buckeyes 11 yard but with a yard in possession.
"The men in the locker room understand the work we do and the way we fight during the season," Barrett said, "and I think our curriculum speaks for itself."
The most compelling argument for Ohio State to win a playoff bid, based on what the College Football Playoff committee has indicated it values most, is to win a Power Five conference championship. The Buckeyes also have three wins over the top 25 opponents, with one of their defeats against Oklahoma, the Big 12 champion and a lock for the college football playoff.
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But detractors will respond that Ohio State's two losses were fairly unbalanced, including 55-24 against Iowa. Also, they can point to Penn State last year and Stanford in 2015. Both teams of two defeats had three victories over the top 25 opponents and won their conference championship, but none of them came to the College Football Playoff.
And unlike the state of Ohio, the Lions of Nittany and the Cardinal each had a one-digit loss.
Concerns about the Elimination of College Football aside, Ohio State prepared last week, not knowing how much Barrett could play, or if he would be effective in doing so.
The senior aggravated his right knee already injured last week in a 31-20 victory against Michigan when a cameraman tried to press him into the sideline, prompting Meyer's condemnation during the post-Ohio State party press conference .
Barrett confirmed that he underwent arthroscopic surgery last Sunday to repair his meniscus.
"How you keep it out of the game, I just do not know how it happens," Meyer said of Barrett, who practiced on Thursday, at which time he was allowed to play in his first Big Ten championship game.
Freshway reserve quarterback Dwayne Haskins, former All-Met at Bullis, performed admirably in relief last week, but watched from the sideline while Barrett marched into the field for the first series Barrett absorbed his first significant contact while he was tackled during a third-chance fight in opening possession, but appeared without apparent discomfort.
His throwing form also did not suffer when Barrett completed an 84-yard touchdown pbad to Terry. McLaurin in the next series of the Buckeyes. The play with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter crowned a 96-yard drive, the longest in terms of yards in the history of the Big Ten championship game.
The advantage came back to the Buckeyes forever, 14-7, courtesy of Barrett's 57-yard throw to running back Parris Campbell, who broke multiple tackles to finish the score in a fascinating first quarter.
"It's amazing how important this tie-breaker is and how everyone revolves around it," Meyers said with a touch of sarcasm. "I hope we have a chance."