Ohio State football: Buckeyes can’t afford slow start vs. ball-hogging Wisconsin

Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State football-Wisconsin-Big Ten Championship

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two of Ohio State’s best wins this season came after impossibly bad starts. But for reasons involving both style and substance, the Buckeyes probably can’t afford a big early deficit in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night.

Let’s start with substance. Above all else, Ohio State needs a win to keep alive its hopes of making the College Football Playoff. Given that a victory against Wisconsin doesn’t guarantees the Buckeyes a playoff appearance, a defeat is a deal breaker. Three losses earns nothing better than a consolation prize, with that probably coming via another trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Can Ohio State win with a slow start? Sure, it’s possible. The Buckeyes climbed out of a 21-3 hole to beat Penn State and erased a 14-0 deficit against Michigan. The latter was the largest point differential the Buckeyes have ever overcome to beat Michigan.

With that being said, it’s probably not best to try that against Wisconsin. Ohio State’s strength comes from chances. The more times the Buckeyes possess the ball, the better the odds their superior offensive talent will win out. No matter how the game is going, their players will make plays when given enough chances.

Those chances could be limited against the Badgers. On average, Wisconsin’s offense holds the ball for 10 minutes longer than its opponent. That staggering 35-25-minute ratio ranks second in the country, just behind run-at-all-costs Navy. A 32-28 time of possession average is good enough for 13th nationally, and the Badgers are six minutes better than that gap.

Thanks to sensational freshman running back Jonathan Taylor and a powerful offensive line, the Badgers rank 18th nationally in rushing offense. The last thing Ohio State wants to see in the second half is Taylor bleeding minutes off the clock while the Buckeyes attempt a comeback.

In the event that the Buckeyes do survive another slow start, though — certainly not impossible — it could still end up being a Phyrric victory. With almost no margin for error, it’s in Ohio State’s best interest to control this game as much as possible. The Buckeyes might not be able to afford having their last two impressions be wins that come down to the wire thanks to bad starts.

There’s no need to win 59-0 like in 2014, but starting slow and winning like they did against Penn State and Michigan — if they win at all — might not be enough.

The post Ohio State football: Buckeyes can’t afford slow start vs. ball-hogging Wisconsin appeared first on Land of 10.

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