John Moten

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Record performance by Dwayne Haskins lifts No. 6 Ohio State to Big Ten crown, playoff fate awaits

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Dwayne Haskins showed why he was named the Big Ten’ Offensive Player of the Year with a Big Ten championship game record performance to help No. 6 Ohio State (12-1, 8-1 Big Ten) set aside No. 21 Northwestern (8-5, 8-1 Big Ten), 45-24. Haskins passed for a Big Ten championship game record 499 yards with five touchdowns to lift Ohio State to back-to-back Big Ten championships. A trip to the Rose Bowl likely awaits the Buckeyes as a result.

The final line on Haskins was impressive with 34-of-41 passing for 499 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. It was a performance that showed why Haskins should at least be considered for a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the Buckeyes needed Haskins to shine as Northwestern was not going to go away easily in Indianapolis.

Northwestern played close enough to Ohio State to avoid being on the receiving end of an Ohio State team in need of some style points. While Ohio State proved to have too many weapons on both sides of the football, the Wildcats made Ohio State keep pushing longer than Ohio State may have wanted. John Moten ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run early in the game to get Ohio State’s attention and a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter brought Northwestern to within 24-21 before Ohio State started to pull away a bit. A pair of interceptions thrown by Clayton Thorson hurt some chances for Northwestern to pull an upset in the Big Ten title game, as did a lost fumble. Ohio State had a couple of turnovers though to hurt themselves at times, but the defense stood up to make some key stops to stop the bleeding quickly.

In all likelihood, Ohio State’s chances of playing in the College Football Playoff may have been dashed, although the fate of the Buckeyes will be left in the hands of the selection committee on Sunday. With Oklahoma winning the Big 12 championship and chalk holding in the SEC with Alabama (over Georgia) and Clemson (over Pittsburgh), along with Notre Dame sitting at home with a clean 12-0 record, Ohio State is very likely to be left out of the playoff and heading to Pasadena to face Pac-12 champion Washington in the Rose Bowl. Despite the success of Ohio State over the years under Urban Meyer, this will be the first time Meyer has taken Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, and it will be Ohio State’s first Rose Bowl trip since the 2009 season. Ohio State would have played in the Rose Bowl last year but the Rose Bowl was the site of a College Football Playoff semifinal between Oklahoma and Georgia, which forced the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to square off in the Cotton Bowl instead, with Ohio State defeating USC last season.

Northwestern’s bowl destination is a bit more up in the air as the Big Ten will wait to see if it can squeeze more than two teams into a New Years Six bowl game, although Penn State looks likely to be taking a spot in the Capital One Bowl as the first Big Ten team off the board after Ohio State and Michigan in the New Years Six. That leaves Northwestern as a team that could head to any number of bowl games in the Big Ten lineup. Because there are no slots assigned base don finish, the Big Ten and bowl partners will work to determine where Northwestern will go. As a division champion, Northwestern should still get a relatively decent bowl destination in the Big Ten bowl lineup.

Looking for style points, Ohio State leads Northwestern in Big Ten championship game at half, 24-7

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Considering the events that have unfolded earlier on championship Saturday in college football, Ohio State may be in a position to need to win impressively against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. After 30 minutes, Ohio State leads the Wildcats, 24-7.

Ohio State started the game the way it needed with a 10-play drive traveling 77 yards and ending with a touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Terry McLaurin. The defense then forced Northwestern to go three-and-out to get the ball back quickly. But after Northwestern’s defense turned in a quick defensive stand, Northwestern running back John Moten IV took off for a 77-yard run against the Buckeyes defense for a game-tying score. It was the seventh time this season Ohio State had given up a play of at least 70 yards.

But then Northwestern’s offense appeared to hit a wall. A three-and-out was followed by two straight possessions ending with turnovers; an interception in the end zone thrown by Clayton Thorson and then a Thorson fumble just moments after the Wildcats had picked off a pass from Haskins. Ohio State managed to tack on a field goal to take a 17-7 lead and has remained in control as the game approached halftime. Haskins made sure the lead was given a bit more of a cushion before the half with a 42-yard touchdown pass to McLaurin late in the half. Haskins is already up to 249 passing yards with two touchdowns.

If Northwestern is going to make a comeback in this game, they will have to do so without leading receiver Flynn Nagel. Nagel has been ruled out for the remainder of the game after limping off the field in the first half.