All or Nothing in Big Ten Championship

D1A Rugby: All or Nothing in Big Ten Championship
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COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. – Ohio State will take on a red-hot Wisconsin team on Saturday for the first-ever Big Ten Universities conference championship. The game will kickoff at 4 p.m. CT in Cottage Grove and will be webcast live.

The two teams’ respective paths to the Big Ten Championship could not have been much more different. Wisconsin went undefeated in the regular season. Ohio State stumbled to a 3-1-1 record.

Wisconsin endured a loss to Lindenwood, but earned a 4-0 record on their Ireland tour in March. Ohio State sustained losses in their post regular season, pre-playoff schedule to Notre Dame and Bowling Green, but they got a number of starters back from injury after those games, which led to their semifinal win.

But both can relate to what it’s like to eke out a close win in the playoffs though. Ohio State withstood a lake Illinois surge to win 43-40 and Wisconsin put their foot down in the last 10 minutes of their semifinal against Indiana to win 31-16, a score line that perhaps didn’t reflect the dogfight in the first 70 minutes.

Wisconsin has been known for their bruising forward play, but according to head coach Skip Heffernan the backline is starting to click. But the team’s biggest assets are fitness and defense.

“On the Ireland tour we had a chance to train every day even when we weren’t playing. Our fitness really picked up. We also had a chance to work on coordinating our defense and to defend as a unit, not just one guy going up and making a tackle,” Heffernan said.

Ohio State’s freshman pivot, Taylor Hurff, will go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin’s Jordi Heginbottom. Tasked with directing the backline, the performance of the two stand-offs will critical.

Inspirational Wisconsin captain Kurtis Shepherd noted in an interview with the Badger Report, “It’s a Big Ten Championship and everyone’s really excited about it…but we want to win every single game and this one is no different.”

Both teams will be fired up to make history by winning the first-ever BTU championship, setting up a thrilling finish between the two conference heavyweights in the inaugural Big Ten season.

D1A Playoff Picture

The winner will have the chance to challenge (play-in) for a spot in the D1A Quarterfinals.

This is how the bracket works out:

If Wisconsin (Big Ten West) wins , they will play at West #2 (which will be decided by the CU @ CSU result on Saturday).

If Ohio State (Big Ten East) wins , they play at Kutztown (East #2).

The play-in will take place on April 20.