Figuratively speaking, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has a target on his back headed into this weekend's Big 10 Championship. In reality, the target is much closer to his left knee.
Fields suffered an injury to the knee in the form of an MCL sprain as the Buckeyes battled then-No. 8 Penn State on November 23, leading the scarlet-and-gray to a 28-17 win. He appeared good to go by the next game, as he would lead Ohio State to a 56-27 win on the road against archival Michigan, but the injury was re-aggravated on a third-quarter hit, sending Fields to the sideline.
He would return with a brace on the knee after a few plays, and it now appears Buckeye fans have no need to worry about missing their starting quarterback as they travel to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this Saturday to face Big 10 West champion Wisconsin to determine a conference champion.
Will Justin Fields Rest?
"In my mind I'm playing on Saturday. I don't care how much it hurts," Fields said.
"No, not at all," added Buckeyes' head coach Ryan Day when asked if Fields will rest. "He'll get rehabbed this week and be fine. He'll be playing. We'll use him all 60 minutes."
For Fields' part, he has been spending extra time each day this week working with the trainers inside the program to make sure he is as healthy as he possibly can be when he takes the turf on Saturday.
"I just come in every morning and do different exercises with the trainers. I try to once it a lot and do different things to strengthen my knee and my quad and my knee to get it back to normal," he said.
Fields' prescience on the gridiron cannot be overstated - a leading Heisman Trophy contender, Fields has thrown for 2,654 yards this fall, tossing 37 touchdowns while tallying just one interception. He has also added over 400 yards and ten touchdowns with his legs on the season.
Can Justin Fields Still Run?
A main concern is how effective Fields will be at both maneuvering in the pocket and handling designed run plays with the injury and the brace -- he acknowledged Tuesday that while he definitely isn't the same athlete as he is when he's healthy, he has to make the safe choice when it comes to his own health.
"It definitely limits you from running, but at the end of the day you have to stay safe when you're in the pocket. You're going to be limited or be safe, and you have to decide what's more important," he said.
Second Meeting Between Wisconsin and Ohio State
The Buckeyes (12-0) defeated Wisconsin (10-2) previously this season, routing the Badgers 38-7. Fields finished 12-22 with 167 yards and two touchdowns passing in the performance, while he added 28 yards and a score on the ground. A win would likely secure the top seed in the College Football Playoff for the Buckeyes, as they enter the week ranked first in the official CFB rankings.
"It'll be really tough. They're a very well-coached team, and they've gotten better as the season went on. It's going to be a big challenge," Day said about the Badgers heading into Saturday night.
Justin Fields: Ohio State quarterback on health of knee, preparing for Wisconsin