INDIANAPOLIS — It was big. But was it big enough?
Ohio State (11-2) won the Big Ten football championship with a 27-21 win over previously undefeated Wisconsin (12-1) on Saturday night.
Today, the Buckeyes will find out if they will be one of the four team in the College Football Playoff or if their destination will be one of the top bowl games.
OSU coach Urban Meyer disagreed with the characterization that he was lobbying the playoff committee after Saturday night’s win, but Meyer did mention his team’s win over two top four teams (Penn State and Wisconsin) at the time it played them more than just once or twice.
“This was our second win over a top four team in America, and we won the (Big Ten) championship. I hope some good things happen down the road,” Meyer said.
Ohio State built a 21-10 lead, which probably should have been bigger, by halftime and then held off Wisconsin in the second half.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett, just six days removed from arthroscopic surgery on his knee, took every snap, threw for two touchdowns and ran the ball 19 times for 60 yards and another touchdown.
Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins was the game’s Most Valuable Player after rushing for 174 yards on 17 carries, including a 77-yard play and a 53-yarder.
Wisconsin came into the game allowing an average of 80 yards a game on the ground.
After going ahead 21-7 and holding a 21-10 halftime lead, Ohio State’s only points in the second half came on a 27-yard field goal and a 20-yard field goal by Sean Nuernberger. But its defense took up the challenge and never allowed the Badgers to seriously threaten to take the lead.
Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who came into the game with 1,806 yard rushing, was limited to 41 carries on 15 yards. And quarterback Alex Hornibrook was 19 of 40 for 229 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
“We knew it was a good defense,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “We would have liked to have been more efficient and productive.”
Ohio State made big plays and big mistakes when it built its 21-10 halftime lead.
Two of the Buckeyes’ first-half touchdowns came on pass plays of 84 yards and 57 yards, and their other TD was set up by a 77-yard run.
Wisconsin had given up only three plays of more than 50 yards in its first 12 games. And Ohio State’s 309 yards of total offense in the first two quarters exceeded the 267 yards a game the Badgers allowed in their first 12 games.
But Ohio State also made two big mistakes, and without them Wisconsin might not have scored in the first half.
OSU took a 7-0 lead on an 84-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to Terry McLaurin, who grew up in Indianapolis, with 6:31 left in the first quarter.
But Wisconsin caught up at 7-7 when linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel stepped in front of a pass by Barrett at Ohio State’s 9-yard line and took it to the end zone with 2:08 to play in the first quarter.
Ohio State responded with 57-yard touchdown throw from Barrett to Parris Campbell for a 14-7 lead with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
One play after J.K. Dobbins went 77 yards, Barrett scored on a 1-yard run and Ohio State had a 21-7 lead with 11:10 left in the first half.
If not for a fumble by Mike Weber that set up a Wisconsin field goal late in the second quarter, two overthrows by Barrett on passes intended for wide open receivers heading for the end zone and a blocked field goal, OSU’s lead could have been even bigger at halftime.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.