OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for 499 yards and five touchdowns to lead Ohio State (12-1, 8-1) to a 45-24 win over Northwestern (8-5, 8-1) in the Big Ten Championship game. The league title was OSU second in as many years.
The Buckeyes controlled the game throughout but had to survive a determined third-quarter rally by Northwestern before pulling away in the fourth quarter. OSU led 24-7 at the half but Northwestern scored two unanswered touchdowns in the third period to cut OSU’s lead to 24-21. From that point on however the Buckeye defense stiffened and held the Wildcats to just a field goal the rest of the way. Meawhile Haskins led OSU to three fourth-quarter scores, a field goal and two touchdowns, to give OSU a comfortable margin of victory.
OSU dominated the first half. They scored a touchdown on their first possession on 16 yard touchdown pass from Haskins to Parris Campbell to take a 7-0 lead. The Buckeye defense gave up a big play resulting in a 77 yard touchdown run by Northwestern to tie the score 7-7, but that was just about all the offense the Wildcats could muster in the first half. OSU continued to move the ball but errors prevented them from capitalizing on the scoreboard despite their ability to put up yardage. An interception killed one drive but OSU eventually scored a field goal to go up 10-7, then added two touchdowns in the second quarter to lead 24-7. The touchdowns came on a two yard run by tailback J. K. Dobbins and a 42 yard completion from Haskins to wide receiver Terry McLauren.
Northwestern came out smoking in the second half. They took the opening kickoff and drove 87 yards just seven plays to cut OSU’s lead to 24-14. OSU punted after just four plays and the Wildcats once again drove to a score, this time going 85 yards in nine plays to cut the OSU lead to 24-21. From that point on however the Buckeyes took control. Haskins found freshman receiver Chris Olave on a 28 yard scoring pass to make it 31-21. Northwestern answered with a field goal to make it 31-24, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way. On OSU’s ensuing possession Haskins found Johnnie Dixon for a 53 yard completion to the Northwestern 15-yard line. He then found Dixon again from nine yards out for the touchdown to make it 38-24. OSU closed out the scoring on a 17 yard pass from Haskins to Dobbins to make the score 45-24.
The win gave OSU its second-consecutive Big Ten championship. Coming into the day the Buckeyes had still entertained hopes of landing a playoff spot, but as of this writing that does not appear to be likely. Oklahoma defeated Texas earlier today. That win, coupled with Alabama’s defeat of Georgia, probably moved Oklahoma in the fourth and final spot for the playoffs. Clemson also won and Notre Dame was idle. Those two teams are expected to round out the four-team playoff field with Alabama and the Sooners. This is the second-straight year that the Big Ten champion Buckeyes have been excluded from the college playoff.
Haskins was named the MVP of the Big Ten championship game. His 499 yards passing and 5 touchdown passes were both Big Ten championship game records.