It looks like Ohio State is going to roll to another appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game, and a chance at their second straight conference title. It’s still relatively early in the season to be talking about this, as we’re not yet in the crucial month of November, but it seems like the race for the East was over as soon as Penn State blew a lead last week and allowed the Buckeyes to escape Happy Valley with a win.
That game ensures that, unless some complex tiebreakers happen, the Buckeyes would need to lose twice for Penn State to take first place in the division. The Penn State team that they recently beat was the toughest team on their schedule, and now, it looks like there’s a limited number of teams that can realistically go toe to toe with the Buckeyes.
Some looked to Indiana, which entered their game against Ohio State with aÂ 4-1 record, as the team that might give the Buckeyes a challenge despite being big underdogs. And Indiana did keep things close, but during the fourth quarter, they were outscored 14-0 and the Buckeyes pulled away without letting their opponents back into the game.
“I’m not going to lie, we were probably still tired from last week. Definitely was a little low in energy in practice during the week,” said quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. But that low energy in practice didn’t keep Ohio State from surviving another week, staying in first place in the division.
On the same day, Michigan State lost to Northwestern by a score of 29-19. The reason why that’s significant? Going into the week, Ohio State had two ranked teams in their remaining schedule: Michigan, and Michigan State. Now, after their second loss of the year, it just doesn’t look like the Spartans are in the right shape to even be considered a true challenger. They’ve given Urban Meyer problems in the past, yes, but MSU is 3-2 this year. In both of their losses, they were favored to win.
Assuming that Michigan State isn’t a big threat to pull off the upset, Ohio State has very good chances of running the table in the regular season. It’s not expected that they’ll lose to someone like Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska, or Maryland after all. The most threatening team on their schedule is Michigan, whose only loss this season is in nonconference play, but that’s just one game.
It’s not that Ohio State is guaranteed to win, but at this point, they’ve vanquished their top threat and Michigan State’s poor season has already put the Spartans out of the running for the East. Barring a result that would be considered a major upset, there’s only one game this season where Ohio State isn’t the favorite firmly. And that’s a game where you can throw the records out the window.
Anything can happen in Michigan versus Ohio State, so the Buckeyes aren’t in the clear yet. But it’s fair to say that they’re almost there. After all, how many are seriously picking them to lose to Maryland, Michigan State, or the three Big Ten West opponents left on their schedule?