The Ohio State Buckeyes play for their third straight Big 10 championship on Saturday, and their second in the last three against the Wisconsin Badgers. The game, despite an injury to Ohio State’s starting quarterback Justin Fields, is widely projected to be a one-sided blowout. The Buckeyes enter the game ranked second in the AP Coaches poll, but first overall in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The only major question for Ohio State heading into Saturday’s showdown centers around the 20-year-old Fields, who has thrown for 37 touchdowns against only one interception in his first Buckeyes season, after a transfer from the University of Georgia, leading the team to its 12-0 record. But Fields has been nursing a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee.
First-year Buckeyes Coach Ryan Day, however, told Cleveland.com that the knee injury will not be a concern for Fields, saying that he had been discussing Fields’ injury “all week” with the team’s training staff.
“Everything we’ve heard back is that it’s 100 percent go, he’s ready to roll,” Day said, adding that if he was not confident in the assessment of Fields’ health, he would “take precautions.”
But Wisconsin, despite suffering a 38-7 defeat when the two Big 10 rivals met in October, managed to sack the Ohio State quarterback five times — before Fields began experiencing the likely limited mobility caused by his knee injury.
Nonetheless, oddsmakers have installed Ohio State, who hope to soon be playing for their first national championship since 2014, as prohibitive favorites. As of late Friday, the point spread on the game favored the Buckeyes by a whopping 15 1/2, according to The Action Network.
But bettors appear to find something attractive in the matchup. Despite the spread, which had ballooned as high as 16 1/2 earlier in the week, the game has drawn the second-most bets of any matchup on this conference championship weekend — a weekend with no fewer than 10 major title games on the schedule, starting with Friday night’s Oregon State blowout of Utah in the Pac 12 championship, by a 37-15 score.
In addition, the Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring, with 49.9 points per game — and also stand fourth in defensive points allowed, at just 11.8 per game, according to The Sporting News.
Fields is considered a strong contender for this year’s Heisman Trophy — but so are Ohio State running J.K. Dobbins and defensive end Chase Young. In fact, according to TSN, Young may even be the favorite. It was Young who recorded four sacks as the Buckeyes rolled over Wisconsin in the schools’ first meeting this season.
The Big 10 championship matchup will be televised by the Fox Network, starting at 8 p.m. EST on Saturday.