The surprise of the Big Ten, Northwestern, took a rocky start to the season and transformed it into a Big Ten West title. Ohio State did what they do – reload and conquer. As Big Ten East champs, they were a heavy favorite to beat the Wildcats. A Rose Bowl prize awaited the victor as a packed Lucas Oil Stadium eagerly anticipated kickoff.
Urban Meyer paced back and forth outside Ohio State’s locker room door during pregame warmups. Rumors were already swirling about his potential departure from coaching, and with the Big Ten title game an hour from kicking off, his face was saturated with pensiveness.
Outside the Wildcat locker room, awe filled the faces of the players as they gathered and geared up to burst out onto the field for their first Big Ten title appearance. Athletic director Jim Phillips paid for several buses to transport Northwestern fans down from Evanston to combat the onslaught of Buckeye faithful that would overpower the crowd.
Led by QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State came out strong, but Northwestern cut their lead to three early in the third quarter. A valiant effort by the Cats would evaporate with successive Buckeye scores that closed the game, blanketed the team in confetti, and punched Ohio State’s ticket to Pasadena.
The postgame locker room scene was pulsating with enthusiasm as reporters swirled from locker to locker getting any quotes that would capture the moment. The swirling cacophony of playoff hopes surged through the room, but many knew that the Rose Bowl would be Ohio State’s likely destination. On the purple side of things, Northwestern made its intention that the Big Ten Title game would be more of a pattern than an outlier.