The Big Ten Championship is Ohio State’s main goal every season.
As long as the Buckeyes win the conference championship, they believe other positive things will then be made available to them, such as the College Football Playoffs.
The playoffs may or may not happen this year, but it’s definitely still a possibility.
How well Ohio State plays on Saturday will impact the committee’s decision, but the first priority for the Buckeyes will be to win and achieve that main goal they set out for last winter when preparation for this season began.
How do we see things happening tomorrow?
My gut is telling me that Ohio State is going to make a statement on Saturday with a big win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But they have to approach this game like they did the Michigan game. They have to be that team again. We’ve seen what this team is capable of and I think they have it in them to do it again. This game also takes everything to another level. These guys want a ring, just like they wanted a win over Michigan more than anything else.
But Northwestern is a good team. They have talented and smart players who may pose some challenges for Ohio State. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten in Clayton Thorson, a guy who can throw it pretty well. They’re not a very electrifying team on offense, but they can be efficient.
The Northwestern zone defense is strong and they don’t make many mistakes, but they struggle against the pass. The Buckeye offensive line will have to be ready to protect Dwayne Haskins and give him time to do his thing.
I predict that Ohio State’s dominant scoring offense can get it down against the Wildcats’ middle-of-the-pack defense. But I think Ohio State needs more than just a win, and they know that.
Ohio State 48, Northwestern 17
Ohio State is objectively better than Northwestern in pretty much every phase of the game. If you lined up Ohio State’s offensive linemen next to Northwestern’s defensive line, the Buckeyes are bigger, stronger, and faster than the Wildcats. Ditto for the OSU wide receivers and the NU defensive backs, and any other area you’d want to compare.
If Ohio State shows up like they did last weekend and Northwestern comes out just a little bit off their game, the Buckeyes could certainly run away with this.
But here’s the thing: no one has run away from Northwestern all year, and the ‘Cats haven’t run away from anyone else, either.
Every Northwestern game this season has been decided by 14 points or less. Duke beat them by 14, they beat Wisconsin by 14, and everything else has been closer than that.
They’re not great, but they’re not easy to beat, either.
OSU’s talent wins out in the end, but the Wildcats will keep things close a lot longer than expected.
Ohio State 31, Northwestern 17
I am still riding high off of that win last week. Sure, I predicted a loss but I wasn’t the only one. That team we saw on Saturday was the team we all expected to see this season. A dynamic offense, an angry defense, and playmakers actually making plays.
Northwestern has a pretty bad pass defense. The Buckeyes have a very talented quarterback who is playing with a chip on his shoulder. You combine those two things with a speedy wide receiver crew on a fast turf and this could be a big day for Haskins.
On defense, I think the Buckeyes will see Thorson throw the ball more than he has recently. He only has thrown for 200 or more yards four times this year as they have been primarily relying on the run game. To keep up with the Ohio State scoring, they will need more than just running the ball, so expect Thorson to chuck the ball around more than normal.
Ohio State 52 Northwestern 20
Beating Northwestern isn’t easy. Pat Fitzgerald has molded the Wildcats in his image: hard-nosed, fundamentally sound, and relentless. Like him, it’s not the biggest or the fastest or the most-talented team, but it’s a team that generally gets the job done. The Cats control the clock, pick up first downs, and just…well, hang around. Defensively, they try to make you play patiently.
They’ll be annoying and probably won’t allow the Buckeyes to run away and build up the huge lead they need to impress the CFP committee. And, if the Buckeyes aren’t careful, they may not even win the game. They should win the game, but you can say that about more than one of Northwestern’s 2018 opponents. Ohio State must get off to a good start and play from ahead. Northwestern isn’t built for comebacks, especially multiple score ones, but the Wildcats are good at avoiding that position.
Ohio State 34, Northwestern 23
It sounds strange to say, but things won’t be as easy offensively for the Buckeyes as they were last week against Michigan. Northwestern will play zone coverages, which will force OSU to move the ball station to station. Big plays shouldn’t be as plentiful. We know that Dwayne Haskins doesn’t like to throw into double coverage downfield, so the big shots may go away this weekend as well. Northwestern still gives up passing yards, it will just take patience on Haskins’ part to get it done. The running game will need to bring the same physicality they have been playing with of late.
Defensively for the Buckeyes, the will need to keep their coverages longer. Quarterback Clayton Thorson can keep plays alive a bit, but won’t do it to run the ball. If they stay in coverage longer, they will likely be rewarded with an extra interception or two. Northwestern doesn’t have the explosive offensive players that the Buckeyes have seen all season long, so big plays shouldn’t be seen much in this game. This feels like another good game for the Buckeye linebackers. In the end, I’m going to side with the more talented team.
Ohio State 34, Northwestern 16
Northwestern may just be the bizarro Buckeyes. For all of the up and down swings that we saw from the local team this season, we saw mostly consistency from the Northwestern Wildcats.
Don’t get me wrong, that didn’t translate to weekly domination. No, it mostly meant that week in and week out, they had a similar, albeit not always positive, outcome. The Wildcats are a scrappy, hard-nosed team, but one that doesn’t excel at any one thing.
Every single game they’ve played has been decided by two touchdowns or less, win or lose. On the other hand, only four contests involving the Bucks stayed within that range. OSU is streaky and occasionally untouchably dominant. NU is often good, sometimes slightly gooder than good, and at times less good.
This game is at the very edge of the point differential mentioned above. Northwestern’s inability to dominate in any phase of the game ultimately leads to their downfall against a more athletic team. The Wildcats keep it somewhat tight, but Ohio State wins its second straight conference title.
Ohio State 38, Northwestern 24
Northwestern is the first team to go winless out of conference and still win its division. That’s how weak the Big Ten West is this season. However, the B1G West is the home to the only team to take down Ohio State this year.
If the Buckeyes are still motivated and play like they did against Michigan, not only will they win big, they’ll win easily. If the same OSU team shows up that played Maryland, NU might get their first conference championship in a long time.
I’d expect more of the former rather than the latter. Clayton Thorson, Flynn Nagel, and Isaiah Bowser will be the focus of the Wildcat offense. This offense is the type that troubles this year’s Silver Bullets, they don’t just run the ball between the tackles. However, expect the swagger and confidence from The Game to carry over.
NU MLB Paddy Fisher is a great linebacker. He’ll make plays all over the field. However, this is the best offense NU has seen in 2018, and that will spell trouble for the Cats.
The real Big Ten Coach of the Year takes the Stagg Trophy back to campus. And then Urban’s boys move into the playoffs.
Ohio State 55, Northwestern 17
While Ohio State fans are pining for a blowout win over Northwestern in the hopes that it will impress The College Football Playoff committee enough to leapfrog Oklahoma into the coveted fourth spot, something tells me that Ohio State will earn this one in an unimpressive and unspectacular fashion.
I realize that Northwestern is not very flashy offensively, and the Wildcats do not have the same depth or caliber of athletes that Ohio State will have on the field, but the average point differential of Northwestern’s four losses this season has been about 5.5 points. Urban Meyer conceded that Northwestern does a great job of keeping everything in front of them defensively, so it seems that this is going to be a game of patience and occasional frustration for Ohio State fans on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
While Northwestern keeps it close until the fourth quarter, the superior depth and talent will be enough to crown Ohio State as the 2018 B1G champions, but I will not be expecting a trip to anywhere other than Pasadena and The 2019 Rose Bowl.
Ohio State 45, Northwestern 24