After so many twists and turns this summer and fall, Ohio State has qualified for the Big Ten Championship game and will face Northwestern with a likely playoff berth on the line for the Buckeyes. Once again, the BuckeyesScoop.com staff weighs in on what to expect this weekend.
It is also Championship Week across all of college football, so the staff will be making their picks for all of the Power Five conference championship games as well.
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With or without any of the players rumored to be out, with Justin Fields at QB it is a cakewalk versus a Northwestern team that lost to an awful Michigan State team. They won’t be able to run with whoever they put out there, so I think OSU will win big to leave no doubt that they deserve the coveted #3 seed to avoid Bama in the first round of the playoffs.
This is a matchup of strength against strength as Northwestern is second in defensive the SP+ efficiency metric, led by its pass defense. But Northwestern’s soft quarters scheme is a poor matchup against Ryan Day, Justin Fields, and Ohio State, as the Buckeyes are happy to take the intermediate out and hitch throws that are available before taking explosive shots by conflicting the Wildcats’ cover 4 safeties. Look for Northwestern to try to keep Ohio State off-balance by mixing in cover 2 and other variations to put their corners in the flats to try to take away easy throws.
The Northwestern offense will likely look to regularly target the Buckeye defense with run-pass options and designed quarterback runs. But the Wildcats will likely struggle to move the football on the ground, which will make it difficult for them to sustain drives. Ohio State may take a bit of time to get the passing game in gear. But a motivated Buckeye team will look to make a statement. Ohio State 43-15.
I’m not sure where Northwestern is going to come up with the necessary
firepower to win this one. I suppose it would require a touchdown on
defense and one on special teams as well. But even then, that gets
them to about 31 points. Can they hold Ohio State under that mark if
Ohio State needs at least that many to win? I don’t think so. The
Buckeye running game continues to do well, which only makes the
passing game more difficult to defend. The Wildcats haven’t sacked the
quarterback in their last two games, but they will need to disrupt
Justin Fields or else he will just take what is available and kill
these guys on first and second down. Northwestern hasn’t dealt with an
offense like this since the last time they dealt with this offense.
Ohio State 38 – Northwestern 10
Ohio State has been through a lot to get to this point and even if the Buckeyes are down a player or two on Saturday afternoon, I believe you’ll see them as focused and as hungry as they have been all season long. Through all of the trials and tribulations, they are now right where they had hoped to be all off-season, in the Big Ten Championship game needing a win to secure a playoff berth.
I think Northwestern will try to make Ohio State drive the field 5-10 yards at a time and force the Buckeyes to take care of the football and execute. I believe Justin Fields and this talented offense will do just that and ultimately take Northwestern out of its game plan and hit some big plays in the second half. I have a ton of respect for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern but this one comes down to the Jimmy’s and Joe’s and Ohio State has a major advantage there.
Ohio State 35 Northwestern 17
I feel pretty confident that Ohio State is going to come out and start fast in this one, but I think Northwestern will absorb the initial blow and bounce back to slow the Buckeyes down in the second quarter, keeping the score closer than the game is playing out at halftime, maybe something in the range of 17-7.
This is where the turning point of the game will come for both teams, as OSU has been a poor second half team for the most part this season and NU has been a very good second half team for the majority of the 2020 campaign. I think while it won’t look and feel completely dominant, the Scarlet and Gray will control this one through the third and fourth quarters and cruise to a comfortable victory at the end of the day.
Ohio State 45 Northwestern 21
Ohio State 38 Northwestern 17
Ohio State vs Northwestern will feature two teams with very contrasting styles. In a game like this you generally start and end with the QB’s–and in this case it’s Fields by a wide margin. The Northwestern team just isn’t very athletic defensively and plays a very conservative defensive style. Their only hope is that OSU gets greedy and doesn’t play within themselves OR turns the ball over a ton.
In the perfect conditions of the dome, this becomes increasingly unlikely and really tough to execute. So Ohio State is going to score–and score in bunches. Defensively, the NW team just lacks playmakers—and when you can’t separate and quick strike against Ohio State? Then you are in for a very long afternoon. I’ve got Ohio State convincingly 49-14 in a game that launches Ohio State into the CFP.
No one has broken 30 points against Northwestern all season. Of
course, no one has held the Ohio State offense to less than 38 points,
The Wildcats have only scored more than 30 points once this season,
and that was in the season opener against Maryland. They’ve only hit
the 30-point mark twice against Ohio State in series history, and only
done it once in regulation.
This is not likely to be a super high-scoring game, but Ohio State’s
offense is by far the best unit on the field from either team.
Ohio State 38, Northwestern 20
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTIONS
Steamboat Dry Goods “Pick Of The Week”
Each week our members will have an opportunity to win a gift set from our friends at Steamboat Dry Goods for getting the closest to picking the score of the Ohio State game.
In case of a tie, there will be a tie-breaker each week. This week’s tie-breaker: How many RUSHING YARDS will Trey Sermon have against Northwestern?