College Football Reaction: The Big Ten Championship is almost set, but there are still some issues to discuss
Week 12 of the College Football season is in the books and we learned a ton about the Big Ten. Ohio State and Northwestern both won crucial games and both now are the frontrunners to meet in the Big Ten title game. There are still some takeaways from these two teams that need to be addressed before they likely meet in the December.
1. The Buckeyes’ pass defense must improve significantly
The Buckeyes escaped with a win over Indiana, but not before they allowed them back into the game. Ohio State’s offense played well pretty much the entire game besides some interceptions, but their defense struggled to say the least. To be fair, their defense did have a pick six, and their run defense looked elite. However, when Indiana started throwing the ball, they started to struggle. The Buckeyes’ had some problems earlier this season defending the pass, but this game against the Hoosiers magnified that issue. Michael Penix Jr. went for 487 yards passing, five touchdowns and of course that one interception.
Plus, it is National Championship or bust for the Buckeyes and allowing 480+ yards passing yards is a recipe for disaster. Especially when they play a team like Alabama or maybe Clemson, and that is assuming they make it past their remaining opponents (they most likely will) and potentially Northwestern in the title game. I am not claiming that the Buckeyes are going to lose their title game, but I am saying their pass defense is a real issue and needs to be fixed now or they will not be bringing a Championship home to Columbus.
2. The Northwestern defense cannot carry them
The Wildcats’ defense has been lights out this season. There is no debating that. They allow just 15.8 points per game, and 314.8 total yards per game. Many people would have said they were not really tested by a real offense until this week with the Badgers and we saw how that turned out. They just held a Wisconsin team to seven points. The same Wisconsin team that was averaging 47 points per game. Granted the Badgers had only played two games (Illinois and Michigan), but it was still an impressive showing. More impressively, the Wildcats forced five turnovers in this game. While they are not likely to force that many mistakes against say Justin Fields and the Buckeyes, Fields did just throw three interceptions of his own against the Hoosiers, making me think the Wildcats could have success.
This all leads to my next point about the Northwestern offense. Other than the first game against Maryland where the Wildcats scored 43 points, they have averaged 21.5 points per game. This includes the 17 points they scored on Wisconsin. They just do not generate enough offensively to be among the elite teams. Maybe this changes between now and the Big Ten Championship, but we are going to have to see much more. This is especially going to be true when they play Ohio State. The Buckeyes can go up and down the field, but Northwestern does not seem to have that elite playmaker who can change a game. Their quarterback, Patrick Ramsey, has yet to have to do a whole lot because the defense has stepped up so many times, but expect him to have to carry this team going forward.