Columbus, Ohio – Ohio State coach Ryan Day expects to see a much better Wisconsin team in the Big Ten championship game than the one routed by the Buckeyes five weeks ago.
In that Oct. 26 game, the Badgers stayed with Ohio State through halftime and trailed 10-7 early in the second half before the Buckeyes exploded and rolled to a 38-7 win. All-American defensive end Chase Young recorded four sacks in the game.
“We’re both different teams at this point,” Day said Sunday during a conference call with reporters. He has led second-ranked Ohio State to a 12-0 record (9-0 Big Ten, No. 1 CFP) and a berth in the conference title game in his first year as head coach.
“I’ve seen teams change and they take on different personalities as the season goes on, and they’re playing really, really good football,” Day said.
After back-to-back losses to surprising Illinois and then Ohio State, No. 10 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten, No. 12 CFP) won its last four, including Saturday’s 38-17 rout of Minnesota to lock up the Big Ten West title and advance to face Ohio State at climate-controlled Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this week.
For the Buckeyes, it will be another rigorous game in an end-of-the-season gantlet that included a 28-17 victory over Penn State on Nov. 23 and a 56-27 triumph over rival Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
“I think we’re getting into the rhythm of playing four-quarter games against really good opponents in a ‘March Madness’ approach,” Day said. “And you know we’re at this point of the season playing for championships, every game is going to a four-quarter dogfight. And so I think we are getting into a little bit of a rhythm that way now.”
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst and his players are eager to have another shot at the Buckeyes.
“I certainly think there’s a sense of eagerness or excitement that you’ve done all that you can and you get a right to play in this game,” Chryst said. “There’s a lot of things that had to happen, and the focus needed to be on playing the season out and you look up (at the end) and see what you’ve earned the right to do.”
Jack Coan threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota on Saturday to win back Paul Bunyan’s Axe after watching the Gophers snatch it away in the 2018 rivalry game.
“I’d say we’re definitely a resilient group,” Coan said. “That was one of the things we were preaching coming into this year, because last year we lost a few games, and it kind of went downhill. We were going to make sure that didn’t happen again.”
Chryst said the biggest difference over the last month of the season was more players getting involved in the Badgers’ success.
“I think in the last few games, some out of necessity and some out of natural growth, more guys are contributing,” he said. “Take a look back at kind of our last four games. A lot of guys made significant contributions.”
Big Ten championship
Matchup: East Division champion Ohio State vs. West Division champion Wisconsin
Kickoff: 8 p.m. Saturday, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Records: Ohio State 12-0, Wisconsin 10-2
Line: Ohio State by 16.5