The freshly minted No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes hit the road this weekend to face a struggling Northwestern team. But the Buckeyes will have to survive more than the wounded Wildcats, the weather forecast on Saturday is bleak.
Can the Buckeyes cover a 38-point spread? Will the weather even things up in Evanston?
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Ohio State has to turn around off a big win at Penn State and play an 11am game on the road against likely the worst Big Ten team in Northwestern. The weather–particularly wind–should also be a factor. Look for Ohio State to clean up execution issues on both sides of the football, such as blocking the perimeter on bubble screens and handing route distributions in cover 3.
Ryan Day will also likely try to re-introduce more run game diversity, such as gap runs, and further emphasize inside zone. Miyan Williams’ expected return should also help the run game. Between the weather and the atmosphere, Ohio State could perhaps score slightly fewer points than expected. But Northwestern will likely have a difficult time moving the football.
Ohio State 47 Northwestern 11
Ohio State has shown in the past that they can throw in the rain, but the bigger concern here is the wind. With gusts of up to 40 mph, that can take a perfect pass and turn it into a pick six. The Buckeyes will still throw the ball because that’s what they do, but they’ll have to get back to running the ball like they did before they started facing above-average defenses. Miyan Williams was seen after practice on Wednesday in uniform with nothing on his arm or hand or knee, so that’s positive news. I won’t be surprised to see Dallan Hayden or Chip Trayanum lead the team in rushing this week. If Jim Knowles’ defense is going to force a shutout this season, it will happen this week.
The interior pass rush is going to be constant, as is the rush from the right side of NU’s offensive line. The linebackers will need to tackle quarterback Brendan Sullivan. Northwestern doesn’t have much in the way of big-play ability, so as long as the Buckeyes don’t help them in that regard, this one won’t be close regardless of the weather.
Ohio State 49 Northwestern 7
My biggest concern this weekend is the weather as Northwestern is completely overmatched in every facet of this game. The 38-point line, on the road, despite the weather forecast, is extremely telling here.
Ohio State has struggled on the ground the past two weeks, but this is definitely a “get right” game on that front and I expect, even with some bad weather, the Ohio State offense to move the football with relative ease. It was going to be difficult for the Northwestern offense under optimal conditions, but it’s going to be even more difficult to sustain drives against OSU with poor conditions. I think the Ohio State defensive line will have a monster game on Saturday and the Buckeyes will roll to 9-0.
Ohio State 49 Northwestern 10
This is a “pick your score” game for Ohio State. The only thing that can stand in the way of OSU is OSU here, and maybe the weather possibly making the Buckeyes conservative given the state of injuries for the team.
Northwestern might just be the worst team in the Big Ten and I see Ohio State absolutely steam rolling them this weekend. The final score will ultimately be determined by Ryan Day.
Ohio State 52 Northwestern 10
The biggest defender on the field on Saturday for Northwestern may be Mother Nature as the weather could be windy and/or rainy during the course of this game. Of course, with Ohio State being a passing team, that does not help those causes but that may work out in the end because the Buckeyes need to get the running game back in order.
What does showing that you can run against Northwestern prove? On the surface, not much because the Wildcats are not very good. But it is important for the Buckeyes to taste a little success over the next couple of weeks in advance of the Michigan game, a game where the Buckeyes MUST be able to run the ball.
Northwestern is not going to be able to much of anything on offense, it is going to take a serious coverage bust on Ohio State’s part for anything to really happen as the Cats have been kittens on offense.
Ryan Day can name his score in this one. I feel that 49 sounds like the right number on the Ohio State side of things and I just think it is more and more difficult to shut conference opponents out, so let’s give Northwestern something for its efforts.
Ohio State 49, Northwestern 7
Northwestern’s defense isn’t very good. It ranks 78th in the nation in
SP+, and just gave up more than 30 points to the shambling disaster of
a tire fire that is the Iowa offense.
Northwestern’s offense is even worse. It ranks 108th in the country in
SP+, and hasn’t scored more than 24 points since August.
Northwestern’s special teams are the worst of all. They rank 131st in
the nation in SP+, quite literally the worst in the entirety of FBS.
There are a few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to picking games.
“Never predict a shutout” is near the top of that list.
This sad sack team, playing in extremely windy conditions that will
limit them even more on offense, has me ready to break that rule for
the first time in quite a while.
Ohio State 45 Northwestern 0
This is a game, coming off of Penn State where the Buckeyes were put to the test, against a team that is having a less than stellar season that you would expect Ohio State to jump all over them.
The mark of a really good team when playing a team that is less than good, is you want to see them, as the old saying goes, squash a bug with a sledgehammer!
With the game time conditions being less than ideal it creates another opportunity for adversity to test this team. Can they go out and execute? What does the pass game look like? Can, and this is the big question, Ohio State get the run game back on track after being off the rails the past two weeks?
If this team is as good as advertised we should witness a dominating performance on Jim Knowles’ side of the ball. We should see a run game dominate the line of scrimmage.
Given the weather conditions, call it 41 to 10 Buckeyes when it is all said and done.
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In case of a tie, there will be a tie-breaker each week. This week’s tie-breaker: How many rushing yards will the Ohio State offense have against Northwestern on Saturday?