The Big Ten Championship Game was closer than many thought it would be, but Ohio State pulled away in the second half to win 22-10 over Northwestern.
The Wildcats led 10-6 at halftime, but the Buckeyes kept their opponents scoreless in the second half of the championship game for the second year in a row. Trey Sermon rallied the Buckeyes around him and rushed for well over 200 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
Northwestern played in their second conference championship game in three years, but have now lost both to Ohio State.
This is the fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship Game victory for Ohio State and its fifth overall. This is the third time the Buckeyes have won four consecutive conference titles, which is the most in the Big Ten. They also extended their conference-leading streak of four straight championship game wins.
Ohio State is the Big Ten Champions, but are now looking forward to College Football Playoff selection.
Big Ten Championship Game 2020
Trey Sermon, Big Ten Championship Game MVP
He ran seven times for 60 yards in the first half, which is already a pretty good performance. But he exploded in the second half, ending the day with 29 carries for 331 yards and two touchdowns.
The previous single-game leader in rushing yards in the Big Ten Championship Game was Ezekiel Elliott in 2014 with 220 yards. Needless to say, Sermon was well clear of that record.
Not only was that Big Ten Championship Game record for rushing yards, but it was the most in any conference championship game in FBS history.
Sermon also passed Eddie George for the most rushing yards in a single game in Ohio State history.
He had five runs of 20 yards or more, with a long of 65. That was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Buckeye offense.
Justin Fields had the worst game of his Buckeye career, with only 12 of 27 passes completed, 114 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. While Fields only had nine passing yards in the second half, Sermon had 270 yards.
With Fields off of his game and Master Teague dealing with an injury, the Buckeyes needed Sermon to step up. Sermon delivered.
Northwestern played its ninth game of the season, making it one of the few teams in the conference without a cancellation. The Wildcats had all of their players ready to go.
Ohio State, on the other hand, found out that Chris Olave couldn’t make the trip. Not only is Olave a top receiver for the Buckeyes, but he was second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game.
As a result, the Buckeye offense slowed. Fields was having trouble making reads, and Garrett Wilson couldn’t get the separation he used to. True freshman Julian Fleming replaced Olave and had three catches on the first drive for 30 yards. He only had one reception after that.
Baron Browning was also inactive, and his replacement stepped up for the defense. Justin Hilliard got his first start at linebacker and ended with nine tackles, two for a loss, both of which led the team. He also had an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
The sixth-year player would be the second choice for MVP behind Sermon.
Red Zone Defense
For an offense that has never scored less than 35 points per game, Ohio State expected to put up a lot of points.
On their first three trips in the red zone, however, they had no touchdowns, two field goal attempts, an interception, and three points to show for it.
The Buckeyes were held without a touchdown in the first half, which was the first time it happened since the Buckeyes’ loss to Purdue in 2018.
Northwestern entered this game with the best defense in the conference, especially in the red zone. The Wildcat red zone defense held up early and didn’t break until there were two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Even after two touchdowns, the Buckeyes only scored 16 points from five red zone attempts.
Normally, if Northwestern could keep Ohio State to only 22 points, most would think that would be enough to win.
But despite a great game from the defense, the offense couldn’t get it done, so Ohio State is going home with the hardware.