#3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs Northwestern Wildcats Game Preview, Prediction

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As Mark Twain famously said: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

Just ten months ago, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Northwestern Wildcats met for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. While the Buckeyes were sizable favorites, with almost all the free college football picks predicting a decisive OSU victory in that game, you still had two teams clashing on relatively equal footing. After all, these two teams, despite the contrast, were both division champions in the same conference.

Yet here, in the very first rematch, you have two sides where their respective seasons have yielded polar opposite results thus far.

Northwestern is 1-4 and off to their worst start since 1992. #3 Ohio State is 6-0 (3-0 in the league) and +250 on point differential for the season.

FRIDAY, October 18

7:30pm CT – Northwestern Wildcats vs. #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (Ryan Field, Evanston, IL)

Spread: Ohio State Buckeyes -27 or -28 in some places, which means this is the heaviest underdog Northwestern has been since game one of year one Anno Domini of modern Northwestern football- 1995.

To their credit, the Cats did pull off that massive upset, stunning Notre Dame 17-15 in South Bend.

TV- BTN

Ohio State Buckeyes Preview:

Game-Time Decision

§  LB Teradja Mitchell

§  OT Thayer Munford

§  H-Back C.J. Saunders

Unavailable

§  OT Josh Alabi

§  WR Kamryn Babb

§  LB Baron Browning

§  DT Noah Donald

§  WR Elijah Gardiner

§  TE Jake Hausmann

§  SAF Ronnie Hickman

§  DT Taron Vincent

Another major storyline of this game is that it features two starting quarterbacks who were 5-star recruits, signed with a blue blood program and then later transferred out.

Like the team’s overall records this season, their performances and production are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. OSU QB Justin Fields, who was recruited by Northwestern early on, until his profile soared and he eventually landed at Georgia, was not going to beat out Jake Fromm in Athens.

Now he’s in Columbus and he’s ripping it up so far.

He’s the first Ohio State quarterback, and the only one in the country – to account for a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in the first six games of the season.

ohio-st-football

His 26 touchdowns accounted for through six games is the same amount that Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins had at this point last season.

He’s No. 6 in the nation and No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency rating (187.5). As for Northwestern’s Hunter Johnson, a Clemson transfer, well we’ll get to him in a bit.

“He’s a rock star person,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said of Fields.

“We were blown away with him out of high school. Just a stud of a guy. He’s playing outstanding football and he’s taking it to the next level just being explosive with his feet and being smart with that.”

See the quote above; stunning isn’t it? Given what’s become of the Northwestern offense, and with it the team itself. Meanwhile, Haskins and Urban Meyer are gone, but OSU doesn’t miss a beat.

But as Nathaniel Hawthorne said: “every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not.”

Ohio State comes into this one with the best average margin of victory into the nation this season and the third most road wins, nationally, over the past eight years.

You can expect they’ll have the crowd on their side too Friday night, as they always do when they come to NU.

Northwestern Wildcats Preview:

As Alex Haley said “find the good- and praise it!” (Can you tell someone went to the American Writers Museum today?) NU’s defense is fierce! They are rock solid, but you already knew that. Okay, say something good about the offense- well, they scored more points against #6 Wisconsin than anyone else has and we’re halfway through the season already.

Okay, but they still lost that game and that offensive production was just 15 points. While Fields has been transcendent, Hunter Johnson has been awful. His statistical numbers are brutal, but the issues with the unit are of course far above and beyond just him.

“It’s no secret that we’ve got a few key players that just aren’t executing right now,” said Fitzgerald. “Our issues and struggles on offense this year have not at all been the fault of the offensive line.”

Northwestern’s run blocking has been decent this year, and at times, the running attack has been decent. The passing game has been a total joke though and if the coaching staff believes that Aidan Smith is that far ahead of Johnson right now, in the understanding of the system, it’s very problematic for a lot of people involved in this situation.

Mick McCall’s play-calling has been so predictable, and the passing attack so conservative and focused on the short range dinks and dumps that…well, never mind, this is stuff we’ve written in previous game previews already, and we’d like to keep this article under 1,100 words if we can. There is already an ample supply of criticism for McCall/clamoring for his replacement out there already.

 

Northwestern isn’t as bad as 1-4 sounds, and there is a very realistic chance they’ll be 1-6 after seven games, but again don’t be shocked if they finish the season 4-8 or maybe 5-7.

Prediction: Ohio State Buckeyes 27, Northwestern Wildcats 9

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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