Big Ten Conference Championship game preview

November 30, 2018

#6 OHIO STATE (11-1) vs #21 NORTHWESTERN (8-4); Indianapolis; 8 PM ET; FOX … Ohio State’s hopes of making this year’s CFL playoff looked to be dead in the water after an embarrassing loss at Purdue in late October, but the Buckeyes are suddenly in the hunt again after last weekend’s resounding win over Michigan to claim the Big Ten East title. However, assuming Alabama and Clemson hold serve in their respective championship games, the Buckeyes will need an impressive win over 8-4 Northwestern as they appear to be in a dead heat with Oklahoma for the 4th and final CFP playoff spot.

Certainly, the Buckeyes have the talent to merit a playoff berth as redshirt sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins (#7, 6-3, 215) has emerged as one of the top playmakers in the country and is very much in the Heisman discussion after throwing for over 4,000 yards and 42 scores during the regular schedule while completing 69% of his pass attempts. It’s still not clear whether Haskins is all that keen on heading to the pros this winter, but if he does he figures to be in the first-round mix with the tools to move up into the top ten with some solid performances in the pre-draft testing. If he does ultimately enter the draft, Haskins is likely to be joined in the opening round by junior DT Dre’Mont Jones (#86, 6-3, 290), one of the quickest interior defenders in college in a year of quick interior DTs in college football. For the record, Jones already has 7.5 sacks on the year and even chipped in a pass interception along the way. At the same time, Ohio State has several other second-day prospects including senior WR Parris Campbell (#21, 6-0, 210), Haskins’ go-to target who has 72 catches, including 11 for TDs this fall, along with junior OG Michael Jordan (#73, 6-6, 310) and senior RT Isaiah Prince (#59, 6-6, 310).

While Northwestern lacks the overall talent of Ohio State, the Wildcats won 7 of their last 8 games of the year playing smart, fundamental football and could give the Buckeyes trouble if the latter get caught looking ahead. Northwestern is led by veteran QB Clayton Thorson (#18, 66-4, 225), a solid second-tier prospect for 2019 who has bounced back nicely from a torn ACL suffered late last year. Thorson, a late second-day prospect for the upcoming draft, has already been invited to the Senior Bowl and could use a good outing against OSU to boost his stock even further. however, Thorson is the only Wildcat who figures to be a lock to be drafted this year, although several other players from the program including CB Montre Hartage (#24, 6-0, 195), OLB Nate Hall (#32, 6-2, 230) and OG Tommy Doles (#71, 6-3, 300) have at least some late-round or free agent potential.