No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 Northwestern
Saturday, 8:00 PM, ABC
Line: Ohio State -7
The College Gameday traveling road show makes its way to Chicagoland for a Big Ten matchup between two top 20 teams. Northwestern has played larger games in their history, but this matchup would have to rank right up there. It also could serve as a sneak preview of the Big Ten Championship Game in December.
Northwestern is looking to start 5-0 for only the second time in its history. Ohio State has won 17 games in a row. Something is going to have to give Saturday night.
For Ohio State to win: Stop the run. The Buckeyes are effective at this already, allowing only 84.6 yards per game on the ground. Northwestern wants to run the ball, and averages 249.5 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats backfield will be upgraded this week with the return of running back Venric Mark. Mark has been out the last three games with a leg injury, but his replacement, Treyvon Green, has performed admirably in his absence. Northwestern also features dual threat quarterback Kain Colter, who is averaging six yards per carry.
For Northwestern to win: Weather the storm. The Buckeyes start fast. Very fast. So far they have outscored their opponents 216-21 in the first quarter this season. Because the game is at Ryan Field, Northwestern will want to keep the crowd in the game as long as possible. If Ohio State can get off to a fast start, Northwestern will either have to keep pace with them or hope that they can jump on the Buckeyes early and keep things under control from the jump.
Key Player, Ohio State: Tyvis Powell, safety. Powell has large shoes to fill in the secondary for the Buckeyes. Ohio State lost star safety Christian Bryant last week to a broken ankle and Powell will be one of the players called on to fill the void in the back end. Given the versatility that Northwestern can roll out on offense, and also given the potential need of the safeties to be involved in run support, Powell could be a key cog in determining if the Buckeyes can come out of Evanston with a win.
Key Player, Northwestern: Kain Colter, quarterback. Colter is a jack-of-all-trades, a slash type player who shares the backfield withTrevor Siemian, runs the ball well, and can also catch passes if need be. He brings an element of versatility and a player that may cause Ohio State some headaches if he can get into space—or at the very least cause problems for the Buckeyes if they have to spy him depending on where he is. Containing the ground game, and Colter, will be critical to the success of Ohio State in this game.
Key Stat: 157-27. That is the aggregate score for the three matchups of Northwestern versus Ohio State in Pat Fitzgerald's tenure as head coach. Ohio State has won 28 of the last 29 meetings between the two teams.