Ohio State runs past Northwestern to claim 4th straight Big Ten crown
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Trey Sermon ran for a school-record 331 yards and two second-half touchdowns Saturday, helping No. 3 Ohio State rally for a 22-10 victory over Northwestern for a fourth consecutive Big Ten championship.
The Buckeyes (6-0) will find out Sunday if they’ve done enough to earn one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. It’s the first time Ohio State has won four consecutive outright conference crowns.
Northwestern (6-2) heads into the bowl season with two losses in its last three games and a second runner-up finish to the Buckeyes in three years.
It was a struggle for Ohio State.
After the Buckeyes settled for a field goal on the game’s first possession, Northwestern running back Cam Porter answered with a 9-yard TD run late in the first quarter. The Buckeyes trailed from that moment until Sermon’s 9-yard run with 2:41 left in the third priod.
The Buckeyes had trailed for all of 5 minutes, 5 seconds this season — until they fell behind for nearly 32 minutes Saturday.
Ohio State added a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and Sermon, who had 29 carries, sealed the win with a 3-yard scoring run with 4:03 to go.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was 12 of 27 with 114 yards and ran 12 times for 35 yards.
Porter finished with 16 carries and 61 yards. Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey was 24 of 37 with 224 yards but was picked off twice and lost a fumble — all in the second half.
For the second time in three years, the Wildcats proved they were worthy West Division champions. But like just about every other Big Ten team over the last decade, there’s still a gap between the Buckeyes and everyone else. Northwestern might be closing the gap — the Wildcats just haven’t overcome it yet.
When the Big Ten waived the six-game eligibility requirement, the Buckeyes took full advantage. They didn’t earn any style points, but they got the job done despite being short-handed.
The Buckeyes certainly weren’t at full strength Saturday. They released an inactive list of nearly two dozen players less than two hours before kickoff, nearly the same total that missed the Michigan State game.
Among those sitting out were star receiver Chris Olave, linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Tyler Friday and punter Drue Chrisman. Safety Marcus Hooker, listed as a game-time decision, also sat out.
The Buckeyes didn’t say whether any of those on the inactive list tested positive for COVID-19. If so, Big Ten rules would require them to sit out 21 days and potentially keeping them out of the semifinal game.
Northwestern may slip in the polls but this loss shouldn’t hurt their bowl resume much.
Whatever happens in the polls this week, Ohio State really only cares about one thing: Making the playoff.
Northwestern will find out Sunday where it will head for bowl season.
Ohio State will wait to see if it has earned one of the precious four playoff spots.