Don’t look now, but it seems that Ohio State may be running away with the Big Ten. Of the twelve teams (Leaders and Legends divisions) only three teams remain undefeated. One is That Team From Up North (have looked very shaky lately) and the Buckeye’s opponent this week, the Northwestern Wildcats. None of the twelve teams are close to approaching OSU’s 241 points on the season. This week’s matchup will most likely be the toughest of the season.
The Wildcats come into the game ranked 16th in the country on the backs of RB Treyvon Green and QBs Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter. They have found success the last three games despite playing without their star RB Venric Mack. Mack tallied 1366 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and will be back this week to offer another key running dimension. Colter and Green have combined to form the 18th best rushing attack in the country. Green has over 400 yards on just 55 touches to go along with his five touchdowns. Colter has been used in different facets this season to keep defenses unbalanced. His 264 passing yards and 77% completion rate means that defenses must respect his throwing arm, but his legs have accounted for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Siemian is the main throwing quarterback and has played moderately so far. He has yet to attempt more than thirty passes in a game this season, but defenses shouldn’t sleep on junior quarterback, as his 671 yards and 67% completion rate account for. But clearly this a running offense, emphasized during their last two games. Against University of Maine and Western Michigan, they tallied 104 carries to just 39 passing attempts.
It’s no mystery what the key of the game will be for the Buckeye’s defense this week: stopping the run. Ohio State ranks eighth in the nation in rushing yards allowed to per game and are coming off a game in which they bottled the previously 3rd best rushing attack in the nation to just 3.9 yards per carry. Last weeks game against Wisconsin marked a turning point for the young front seven. Full of confidence and ready to extend their streak of dominance, the Buckeye’s defense should be ready to counter any Wildcat attack. The OSU secondary, ranked 53rd in passing yards allowed per game, has been somewhat shaky this season and will have a difficult time replacing star safety Christian Bryant, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Luckily for the Bucks, the passing game shouldn’t be much of a factor this week.
The Buckeye offense can be summarized in one word: dominating. Whether it’s Kenny Guiton or Braxton Miller under center, Jordan Hall or Carlos Hyde behind them, or Philly Brown or Devin Smith catching passes, this offense hasn’t looked containable all season. The offense races out to amazingly quick starts (216 first quarter points) and then crushes teams with an unstoppable ground game. The Buckeyes have tossed 19 touchdown passes this season, second most in the country. But in typical Ohio State fashion, expect the game to be won with the dominating running game. The rushing unit is now ranked 11th in the country thanks to their 287 yards per game. Miller tallied 83 yards on the ground to go along with Hyde’s 85 last week. Throw in the Dontre Wilson lightning in a bottle dimension and the Wildcats will have their heads spinning.
Heads spinning is a good way to summarize the Wildcats season on the defensive end through four games this season. They haven’t allowed more than 30 points in a game this season and their ten interceptions rank third in the country. Their rushing defense has fared well this season, ranking 28th in the country in yards allowed per game. But those stats hide the ugly truth about the Wildcat defense. Truth is, this defense is very poor and will be dominated by the Buckeyes later today. Their 308 passing yards allowed per game is ranked 117th in the country and were beaten for 272 yards last week against MAINE! Marcus Wasilewski, quarterback for Maine, is certainly not Braxton Miller, so it is not too far-fetched to believe that those numbers could be doubled by the Braxton Express. A look back at the Syracuse game also shows how Northwestern has struggled against the run, as they allowed 133 yards and three touchdowns to the running game that currently ranks 72nd in the nation, certainly not the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes have dominated their last four meetings with the Wildcats dating back to 2004. Northwestern is looking to improve to 5-0 to start the season for the second time in a row. If they do so, this would be the first time in over 100 years with back to back 5-0 starts. In order for history to happen, the Wildcats will have the shock the college football world. This will most likely be the toughest opponent on the Ohio State schedule, but that speaks more to the weakness of their schedule than the prowess of Northwestern. Based off the Buckeye’s strong defensive front seven and unstoppable offense, look for OSU to use this week’s clash on ABC as a statement game to show everyone why they should be considered the best team in the land.