2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Northwestern
Ohio State took care of business at home against Michigan State, and have been pegged as the most complete team in the country, as they rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive categories, the only team in the country to do so. They were tied with Georgia in the AP after the week 6 games, and with the Bulldogs falling to South Carolina, and LSU beating Florida at home, Ohio State is back where it started at 4th, but is 4th in the coaches poll as well while earning first place votes.
It was a good week for the bye as they now start their first of two games before their second and final bye week of the season.
Thanks to Big Ten contracts, Ohio State is participating in a Friday night game on the road as they face Northwestern in what is a rematch of the 2018 Big Ten Championship game. These two teams though are completely different than the ones who played for the title in last years game. Ohio State has improved greatly on the defensive side, and with the added run thrat of Justin Fields for their offense, they have been one of the most explosive teams in the country. Northwestern on the other hand has not found their identity at all this season on the offensive side of the ball, which has cost them in some of their closer games this season, including a 9 point loss to Wisconsin.
Ryan Field always seems to have an aura when the Buckeyes play there at night, but hopefully the Buckeye faithful bought out their tickets and more to cheer on this squad on the road.
The best thing about being 6-0 is the chance to go 7-0 and it starts this Friday against Northwestern.
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
2019 Record: 1-4
Location: Evanston, IL
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: One bye week down, and starts the two game stretch before their second bye week. They were tied with Georgia in the AP poll after defeating Michigan State, but with LSU defeating Florida, the Buckeyes were jumped and fell to 4th place in both AP and coaches poll. This is fine though, because is only halfway through the season, and the toughest games are ahead of them. Earlier in the season, there was a thought that this would be a challenging game for the Buckeyes, but on paper, this seems to be anything but. Northwestern has regressed from their team last year, and Ohio State has looked like the most complete team in the country. They rank in the top 10 nationally in both offensive and defensive statistics, and are the only team to do so. They are also in 1st place in the SP+ rankings, with a decent margin over second place Alabama. Ohio State just needs to win this week, and then get ready for the noon kickoff next week against and most likely undefeated Wisconsin.
Justin Fields has been spectacular so far this season, and has a chance to make even more strides to put himself up in consideration for national awards. He has 1298 yards passing so far, and 18 touchdowns. He did through his first interception against Michigan State, but otherwise he has been smart with the placement of the ball. He also has 283 yards rushing and leads the team with 8 rushing touchdowns. He has had a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in every game this season, the only quarterback to do that.
JK Dobbins paces the running backs with 826 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is currently the second leading rusher in the country, and 1 yard above All-American Jonathan Taylor, who has had more carried to get there. Dobbins is averaging 7.1 yards a carry and will have his work cut out for him this week. Master Teague has been the surprise, and might be faster than Dobbins. He has rushed for 416 yards and has 3 touchdowns on 66 carries. It was a concern for the Buckeyes for who would be the 2nd string running back, and Teague has risen to the challenge. It will be interesting to see how Ohio State uses both backs moving forward.
With the last game, KJ Hill passed Chris Carter for second place overall in receptions and has 27 so far for the season. He is on pace to break the receptions record before the end of the season at this pace. He also has 275 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ben Victor leads the team in yardage still with 348 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added some explosive plays against the Spartans that really helped his stats. He is averaging 19.3 yards a catch. Chris Olave had a quiet game against Michigan State, but still has 258 yards on 16 catches and 4 touchdowns for the season. With Ohio State playing 12 formation (2 TE’s) it will be interesting to see if they utilize their tight ends even more in the passing game.
Chase Young is second in the country in sacks with 8.5, and is on pace to break the season record in sacks, which is 13. He has anchored a tough defense that is only giving up 234 yards a game, and 82 yards on the ground. They should be able to improve those stats this game against a struggling offense.
Northwestern Preview: Pat Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the best coaches in the Big Ten. He has historically been able to get the most out of the talent he has by playing traditional Big Ten football with a stout defense and the 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense. This has carried him to an overall record of 97-74 as he is in his 14th season as the head coach. After winning the Big Ten West last year but going undefeated against Big Ten opponents in the regular season, the Wildcats have already lost 2 games in the Big Ten and 4 games overall. They will need a lot to go their way for them to have a chance in this game against Ohio State. This season, they are only averaging 14.4 points a game, and giving up 19.8. Three losses in Big Ten play would almost eliminate them from a chance to play in Indianapolis as a repeat West champion, but they still have a chance to be bowl eligible if they lose this game, and that can be seen as a rewards for how poorly their season has started.
The Wildcats do not have a consistent quarterback. Many thought going into the season that Hunter Johnson, who transferred from Clemson last year, would be the answer after replacing Clayton Thorson, but he has only managed 367 yards passing and 1 touchdown against 4 interceptions. The week prior,, Aidan Smith started for the Wildcats as Johnson was out with a concussion, and he only has 273 yards passing along with a touchdown and an interception. Ohio State mentioned at their press conference Monday that they would be preparing for both quarterbacks.
Drake Anderson is the leading rusher for the team with 366 yards on 74 carried and 3 touchdowns. The next closest running back is Isaiah Bowser, who had a strong last stretch of games last season, only has 103 yards on 29 carries. No other player has broken 100 yards rushing, and for the season they have 762 yards on the ground. For comparison, JK Dobbins has 826 yards rushing by himself.
With the inconsistent quarterback play, the leading receiver is Bennett Skowronek, who has 141 yards receiving on 12 catches. Riley Lees leads the team in catches with 19, and 139 yards to himself. JJ Jeferson is next with 132 yards on 10 catches, and has both touchdowns for the Wildcats. They will have a tough time against a talented Ohio State secondary, if the defensive line gives either quarterback time to pass.
Somehow though, as bad as Northwestern is, they were able to slow down Wisconsin 3 weeks ago, and have scored the most points against them with 15, and due to turnovers which led to touchdowns, allowed the Badgers to score 24 points. Ohio State will pose the toughest challenge this year for the Wildcats.
Buckeye Spotlight: JK Dobbins. This will be a good game for him to get some distance for himself not only in the Big Ten. but in the country. He comes into this game as the second leading rusher in the country, more than Jonathan Tayler for Wisconsin, and only trials Chuba Hubbard for Oklahoma State. The Buckeyes will need him to make the plays on the ground in order to open up the rest of their offense. He has had some big plays in Big Ten competition so far, and will look for another statement performance before the marquee matchup next week.
Wildcat Spotlight: Drake Anderson. In the spotlight being between the two running backs, Anderson will need to play a role in order for Northwestern to get anything done offensively. The Wildcats have went back and forth on quarterbacks, and neither have produced anything close to a threat in the passing game.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 49.3 to 14.4. That is the average points per game between these two teams, with Ohio State’s being the former. Northwestern comes into this game with an offense threat that has been seen this year, and their only win came against UNLV in week 3 of the season.
Prediction: The matchups for the past two seasons for Ohio State against Big Ten west opponents on the road where they have been 20 point favorites have not gone so well. But this feels like a different team, and Nebraska would have been a game where the let down might have happened, and Ohio State dominated. They will need to focus on this Friday night game because everyone knows what is next week. Next week is the potential Big Ten Championsip game pt. 1, but i order to make it, and keep their dreams of making it to Indy alive, they cannot overlook Northwestern. I think Ryan Day and his staff wont let this be a let down, and Northwestern’s offense has been pedestrian at best. There are no Rondale Moore’s dressing for the Wildcats, and Ohio States defense will have a good chance to force the shutout. Expect the offense to start off a little slow as they test out the Northwestern defense, but JK Dobbins will open up the game, and allow Fields to attack this game with his arm, and his legs.
Ohio State 45 – Northwestern 3
Photo Credit to Stadium Journey