Hayes & Cannon

Three Things To Watch For From The Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson

Making the trek to Evanston, Illinois, for the first time since 2013, when a then-backup freshman defensive lineman named Joey Bosa scored a touchdown for the first time in his collegiate career, the Ohio State Buckeyes will play at the home of the Northwestern Wildcats.

Back in 2013, when those two teams met, the circumstances for Northwestern were entirely different from this year’s squad.  In 2013, Northwestern was 4-0 when Ohio State came to town.  This year, Northwestern is struggling with a 1-4, and desperately trying to salvage their season at the midway point.

Keep in mind that Northwestern, as usual under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, are tough defensively.  Northwestern had close losses at Wisconsin (24-15) and at Nebraska (13-10), so the potential is there for the Wildcats to make this a game, especially if Ohio State comes out flat on this non-traditional Friday night battle.

Below are three areas I will be focused upon when this game kicks off at 8:30pm on The Big Ten Network…

  1. Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano versus Ohio State’s left tackle:  Gaziano is one of the better pass rushers in The B1G, with 3.5 sacks this season, and 24.5 for his career at Northwestern.  With the news that starting left tackle Thayer Munford will be a game time decision, plus the news that valuable utility backup offensive tackle Josh Alabi will miss the game, this matchup takes center stage.  If Munford cannot go, Ohio State may move Branden Bowen to left tackle, and Bowen has missed time over the last two games due to injury himself.  Protecting quarterback Justin Fields’ backside is always a crucial assignment, and the ailing offensive tackles only compound the concern.

2.  Northwestern’s Quarterbacks – Notice how I said quarterbacks, as in plural.  Highly-touted transfer quarterback Hunter Johnson has struggled this season, prompting Pat Fitzgerald to rotate Johnson with Aidan Smith at the position.  Neither quarterback has distinguished themselves, and will bear watching against a fierce Ohio State pass rush featuring superstar Chase Young.

3.  Northwestern’s Running Game versus Ohio State’s Linebackers:  In last season’s B1G Championship Game, Northwestern was able to ramble for some huge plays that allowed the Wildcats to make the game competitive into the second half.  Ohio State has dramatically improved on allowing big plays against its defense, so I will be curious to see if Northwestern is going to try and see if what worked in December in Indianapolis has any chance of being successful in Evanston on Friday night.

3 Responses

  1. Our tackles may be a concern on offense, but our G-C-G up the middle will be as strong as ever. Not in the first quarter, but by the time the 3d quarter rolls along, we’ll be running it up the middle with ease.
    Our TEs are going to have to help protect our QB, but we should still be able to pass the ball pretty well.
    Let’s not forget, so far this season, it seems like OSU has shown about 50% of their playbook, both on offense and defense. It will be interesting to see what the “new thing” is tonight.
    OSU 47-13. Let’s protect Fields!

  2. For this game if the offensive line has to use back-ups? So be it. They certainly don’t want to compound injuries with the meat of the schedule looming.

    Weird eh? The bye week is to rest and get guys healthy. Seems like every year this ass baggery of the bye week proves to do the exact opposite. For the Buckeyes it always seems to be a critical player (s) who go down. Coming back from R&R bye weeks leaves a lot to be desired health wise.

    1. Can JK Dobbins exploit wide zone even IF the offensive line is operating at just 60% capacity?

    This should have been a game where the offense gets to open concepts up and polish new plays.. Unfortunately the bye week proved tougher than an actual opponent and attrition may have derailed the plans.

    2. Northwestern’s offense is sucktacular, so the Buckeye defense shouldn’t be playing at any point in the game Bend But Don’t Break. Seeing how NU is about 100 times below a complete clown show, this defense should be playing smash and crush. If they allow Northwestern to cross midfield at any point (sans Buckeye turnovers) before reserves are playing in the 4th quarter, it’ll mean they still have a ton of work to do to get ready to start having to actually play good football. I know I know…respect every opponent. How the heck can you respect a team that shows up wearing a cross between Bozo and Beeper the clowns costumes and twice as awful trying to pawn off what they do offensively as anything BUT the slapstick of those 2 clowns shows.

    3. Looking to see if the Buckeyes can pop 400 – 500 yards rushing. Why? Because they would be foolish to try to air it out missing both blind side tackles. If they move Brandon Bowen BOTH sides will be weaker. All of them can run block so batter the NU defense until they cry uncle. The way the interior has been blocking they should have the cry uncle from NU by the end of the first period.

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