The Big Ten Championship Game has been a marquee event since its inception, but the 2013 version took on a lot more meaning the second Auburn stunned Alabama with a 109-yard touchdown return off a missed Crimson Tide field goal.
All that stands in Ohio State’s way of a BCS Championship Game now is Michigan State and its nasty defense.
Let’s dig into a few key storylines for the title clash between the Buckeyes and Spartans.
BCS Championship Game Implications
Forget the fact that in the history of the BCS a one-loss team from a power conference has never finished ahead of an undefeated team from a power conference in the final poll. Team SEC needs its birthright spot in the title game.
Or, at least, that’s what Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs told Dan Wolken and USA Today after the Tigers’ incredible win over Alabama.
"An SEC team can't get left out of the (championship game) with one loss," he said.
Who is your No. 2 right now?
It may be a new reality down south, though, if Urban Meyer and Co. take care of business against the Spartans.
Since Auburn and Missouri will likely be breathing down the Buckeyes’ neck, style points may even be a factor. Although beating a Top 15 team on a neutral field should speak for itself regardless of the final margin, Ohio State has certainly been unfairly punished before for not beating teams by enough points.
Ohio State’s Offense Versus Michigan State’s Defense
Something will have to give in Indianapolis on Saturday when Ohio State, the Big Ten’s most explosive offense, butts heads with Michigan State, the league’s stingiest defense.
The Buckeyes are second in the nation in rushing yards per game and third in the country in points per game, largely due to the seemingly unstoppable combination of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. Both would firmly be in the Heisman Trophy discussions if they hadn’t missed a handful of games for injury (Miller) and suspension (Hyde).
On the other side of the ball, Buckeyes fans are certainly familiar with the defensive genius that is Mark Dantonio. He served as defensive coordinator for the national champion Buckeyes in 2002 and has the Spartans fourth in the nation in points given up per contest.
It’s a classic strength-against-strength showdown for all the Big Ten marbles.
Ohio State’s Defense
Ohio State’s clash against Michigan looked like something out of an arena football league largely due to the combination of the Buckeyes’ powerful offense and paper mache defense.
The problem from an Ohio State perspective is that the Wolverines offense has basically been a punchline during the second half of the season, but it had its way against the Buckeyes. Miller and Co. won’t be able to score at will against the Spartans’ vaunted defense, so the Buckeyes must step up when Michigan State has the ball.
A defensive performance like the one the Buckeyes put up against the Wolverines won't cut it on Saturday. Luke Fickell, who is something of a lightning rod splitting Buckeye Nation right now, has his work cut out for him this week.