Ohio State could have rebounded from this loss if other pucks fell the right way, but they didn't.
Of Saturday's four College Football Playoff "play-in" games, the Big Ten championship carried the most uncertainty. Nick Bosa and the defensive line forced Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to get the ball out quickly with their consistent pressure.
Now Ohio State awaits its fate.
The game went down to the wire, but the Buckeyes did just enough to hold off the Badgers thanks in part to a gutty performance from quarterback JT Barrett and one last final stand by the Ohio State defense on the game-defining drive, thanks to an interception with just over a minute remaining. If reason were to follow, the Buckeyes win in the conference title game would have created the separation necessary to get them in. A similar situation happened a year ago, when Penn State won the Big Ten Championship Game but had two losses.
That led to an 84-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett to wide receiver Terry McLourin after McLourin burned Badgers safety Joe Ferguson in man-to-man coverage.
Now the big question is who else gets in?
Though Auburn's turnover struggles definitely aided the Georgia offense, the Bulldogs were also able to establish the run game, resulting in possession control for 33 minutes compared to Auburn's 27 minutes Georgia's running backs combined for 238 yards, with freshman D'Andre Swift contributing 88 yards and one touchdown in the victory. Barrett punched it in on the next play to give the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead with 11:10 left in the second quarter.
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"They made some plays, and certainly some big ones", UW coach Paul Chryst said.
Don't try to argue it's about the brand or the talent of the players; that Iowa loss is nauseating side dish to a committee trying to make the best meal possible.
Ohio State started the game by slashing Wisconsin's top-ranked defense - the Badgers entered the game ranked No. 1 in both scoring defense and total defense - for multiple explosive plays.
After Rafael Gaglianone's 46-yard field goal cut the Buckeyes' advantage to one score at 21-13, Dobbins broke through the line for another long gain.
Ohio State contained star running back Jonathan Taylor better than any UW opponent this season, holding the true freshman to 41 yards on 15 carries. Denzel Ward was every bit of a future first-round draft pick, recording two passes defensed to go along with his first quarter interception.
Wisconsin's defense countered that miscue shortly after when Van Ginkel stepped in front of Barrett's poor throw deep in Ohio State territory and returned it nine yards for a touchdown. That would shake up the bowl locations, but the sandwich game in the Rose Bowl seems more likely.