Before we discuss the imminent blood spilling in Indianapolis, allow me to give out some game balls for the efforts of certain teams in the 2019 season.
As these are distributed solely to teams for how they helped my overall record we won’t go into how they fared against the number for the season, but how well I felt putting any sort of assurances on or against them.
Game ball #1: Ohio State: The swift and rapid manner in which the Buckeyes rendered most teams inoperable and drove up the points made for entertaining Saturdays. To watch the combination of Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins, and Chase Young was not to watch Ohio State run up the score, but to watch the best of the best.
Game ball #2: Indiana. Thanks for being what I thought you were. Some teams you just get, the total sort of understanding of what a team is and what it aspires to be. Indiana was the essence of a good Big Ten team. The Hoosiers beat everyone they should have and maintained solid footing on their spot in the conference, never springing the major upset or covering in games where they were big underdogs.
Game ball #3: Rutgers: The depths of Rutgers’ misery this season came through in the behemoth spreads between them and the favorites. The game ball is specifically from doubting the Scarlet Knights’ ability to cover the number against Liberty. You made me a more well-informed wagerer through reinforcement of hierarchy between different conferences. Thanks for defending the pride of the B1G. Now move along, we have a conference title game to sort out.
Stickler’s note: All lines taken from mybookie.ag. Lines may have shifted since column’s inception. Weird, I thought you were supposed to tip concierges with more than just a head nod?
The game: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State -16 o/u 56.5
The play: Ohio State
The logic: Is this the sequel to “Norbit?” Maybe not a sequel to that, more or less a fourth time in Beverly Hills for Axel Foley. The third time around left us short on compassion for Uncle Dave and his crew at Wonderworld. No Taggart will do that to anyone.
Wisconsin deserves to be in the Big Ten Championship. A win in the biggest game in the history of TCF Bank Stadium, just two weeks prior to the biggest game at TCF Bank Stadium, earned the Badgers a spot. It’s just too bad we’ve experienced the first version and grew admiration for Ohio State and noticed the sizable gap between the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten. We know how the first matchup played out, but what about shared scenarios?
Both teams hosted Michigan State and went on the road in Lincoln against Nebraska for a combined record of 4-0.
Nothing too telling emerges from the four box scores. Both teams defied Air Raid enthusiasts and chunked massive amounts of rushing yards in each of the games. I wish there were more revealing stats from the common opponents/common environments, the sort of tidbit to send a rush of people to the window for a large wager. More than efficient in the run game, nothing glaring, which brings us back to the 38-7 Ohio State win against Wisconsin at the end of October.
After a run down of that game, one in which a certain enthusiast for counter-culture picked the Badgers to cover, all we’re left with is the “If” factor.
Not the “It” factor, that tantalizing blend of moxie, gumption, and game tape consumer. The “If” factor is a series of events, a longshot parlay of sorts (hooray for lingo), all needing to come in to give one team a chance to cover.
Wisconsin reeks of “If” factor.
If the Badgers can limit Dobbins to under 100 yards rushing, convert over 50 percent of its third-down conversions, and push running back Jonathan Taylor over the threshold of 100 rushing yards then the Badgers are ripe to cover the number.
Those asks are not the simple nuance-tighteners of limit holding penalties, and sound play on special teams. It’s too tall of a task for a Wisconsin team that’s going to struggle to keep up with Ohio State’s speed on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium.
I want an entertaining game, one that allows us all to put a wonderful night cap on a day of largely lopsided conference championship games, but I can’t see it.
If hope is for the holidays the Big Ten Championship season is going to be a cold and dark reminder of ordinary time.
Last week’s record: 2-1
Overall record: 22-19-1
Status on the card: The performance over the course of the season warranted me a spot on the card. Now isn’t the time to complain about the booking committee’s reliance to book me in darkest matches, ones that are held in empty arenas before they turn lights on for the event and allow people into the arena. There’s progress to be made.