Ahead of last Saturday, college football fans could look ahead to tomorrow as a preview of the likely Big Ten Championship between Ohio State and Wisconsin. That remains the case, but the Badgers went ahead and got stunned by Illinois, to take a lot of the luster off this matchup.
We're still getting a game between two teams in the top 13 of the rankings. Unless Minnesota can keep it up, this feels like the game we're probably going to see in Indianapolis as well.
Ohio State hasn't even really gotten a scare this year though, much less a loss like Wisconsin's to Illinois. The Buckeyes are a two-touchdown favorites at most sportsbooks.
ESPN's Bill Connelly's SP+ system, which measures team efficiency, actually likes the Badgers to cover a 14 or 14.5 spread, with a score projection of 31-20. Still, it has a Badgers win as a pretty big longshot, giving Ohio State a 74-percent to hold serve at home.
Last week, Wisconsin had a 92-percent chance of beating Illinois, per SP+. As Connelly reminds us this week, that eight-percent does happen from time to time.
So how do the Badgers make that 26-percent chance of a win come to fruition? For that program, the path towards any win is pretty clear: run the ball effectively, keep the ball away from the explosive Buckeyes, and hold them out of the end zone when they do move the ball.
How Ohio State loses: Playing on the Badgers' terms.
If the Badgers are able to move on from that gutting loss, they still have all the same components they did a week ago. If they force Ohio State to settle for field goals (while scoring TDs themselves) and play a lovely game of slow-motion keepaway, they can beat anyone, including the best team in the country to date.
Last weekend, the biggest issue for Wisconsin was the costly turnovers down the stretch. Even with a sloppy performance, the Badgers likely win if they don't give away the ball with a Jonathan Taylor fumble and Jack Coan interception on their final two drives. Ahead of that first turnover, Wisconsin had a 23-14 lead with just over seven minutes left, and a 98.2-percent chance to win the game, per ESPN.