The Ohio State No.4 kicks off Saturday’s game with No.14 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game as the subject of endless debate.
Have the Buckeyes (5-0) played enough games in 2020? Should Ohio State even be in the Big Ten Championship game? Does this team deserve consideration for the college football playoffs under second-year coach Ryan Day?
FOX play-by-play analyst Gus Johnson – who will be calling the game at noon ET on FOX with color analyst Joel Klatt and reporter Jenny Taft – is not listening to these questions. This will be the 10th Ohio State game Johnson has called in the past two seasons.
“There is no debate,” Johnson told Sporting News before turning up the volume. “Did you hear me? There is no debate. The Big Ten did what the Big Ten were supposed to do. Ohio State is one of the best teams in America. We are not going to penalize one of the best teams in the country.One of the best teams in America will not be penalized by its conference with certain rules that were set during times of uncertainty in sport – especially college sports. final. Come on. Let’s not stand. ”
The Big Ten waived their eligibility requirements for the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 10, a decision that followed the cancellation of the Ohio State rivalry game against Michigan.
The Buckeyes’ schedule has been called into question – but they still have an offense averaging 46.6 points per game led by 2019 Heisman finalist Justin Fields. Should the two-year starter be considered for the award at new this season?
“He’s a finalist at Heisman,” Johnson said. “There’s no question about it. Like I said, let’s not stand on the ceremony. You can’t penalize these kids. They haven’t done anything wrong. It’s COVID, and it impacts everyone. ”
Northwestern (6-1) is looking to end Ohio State’s three-straight Big Ten championship streak. The Wildcats won the Big Ten West for the second time in three seasons. Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey stabilized the offense, and the defense is allowing just 14.6 points per game, which ranks second in the FBS.
Do the Wildcats have a conference championship in mind?
“They should be playing the best games they’ve ever played in their lives, and the state of Ohio should be playing maybe their worst,” Johnson said. “I think Northwestern is going to play them tough and tough, but when it comes to Ohio State, they have some of the best players in the country. This is where the pros are going to learn how to be pros.”
At Johnson’s point, the Buckeyes are favorites by 20.5 points. The sample of five games, however, seems to be part of a larger conversation. How does the state of Ohio compare to other heavyweights in Alabama No.1, No.2 Notre Dame and No.3 Clemson? This is where these debates crop up most often, and they focus on defending the Buckeyes.
Ohio State allowed 23.2 points per game, almost 10 points more than last season’s unit, which included All-Americans Chase Young and Jeff Okudah.
“They lost the No. 2 and No. 3 picks in the NFL Draft, so maybe they’re not as good, but what does that mean?” Johnson said. “What’s good? They’re still unbeaten. They had kind of a close game against Indiana, which never really was in doubt. We’ll see how good they are when they play Clemson,” in Notre Dame or … in Alabama. ”
It’s an expected scenario that excites Johnson.
“Clemson, the state of Ohio, Notre Dame and Alabama? I’m going to buy some special popcorn for that,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to say Northwestern can’t win, but if these four teams advance to the final, then let’s go.”
The college football playoff pairs will be announced on Sunday, and Johnson – like most other college football fans – is taking a daily approach due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the Big Ten Championship,” Johnson said. “Once we’re there, let’s sit down and enjoy this game.
“We’re going to see a big game and the state of Ohio has this chance to keep moving forward and represent the conference in the (College Football Playoff),” he said. “We are going to emerge from the Roaring Twenties and move towards new pastures in 2021.”