Staff Predictions: Football vs Ohio State

There’s nothing like Friday Night Lights!

Northwestern has a monumental task in front of them Friday as they play host an Ohio State club that has looked like perhaps the best team in college football so far this season. The Buckeyes rank in the top five nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and haven’t won a game by less than 24 points this season. Can the ‘Cats keep it close? See what our staff thinks:

Ben Krieger (@thebenkrieger): Ohio State 31, Northwestern 10

Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Nebraska, the Wildcats return home still looking for their first conference win. It doesn’t happen this week against the No. 4 team in the country. Northwestern’s defense has been staunch all season and performs admirably, but Justin Fields and the Buckeyes offense proves too tough. Northwestern needs an offensive explosion to win this game, and it doesn’t come Friday night at Ryan Field. Ohio State leaves Evanston with its undefeated record intact, while Northwestern covers the spread. 

Player to watch: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Fields, who famously transferred from Georgia to replace Dwayne Haskins, has been simply dominant. Bleacher Report had a video showing off his “Top 10 Touchdowns of the Season” after just 4 weeks! That’s absurd! Fields can dice up a defense through the air and on the ground and will be the best player on the field Friday.

Kevin Sweeney @CBB_Central): Ohio State 30, Northwestern 12

I do think this will be a game at halftime. Northwestern’s steady defense (plus a little help from the groundskeepers) slows the Ohio State offense enough, and Northwestern pulls out a trick play to get on the board early. In the end, OSU is just too talented on both sides of the ball not to pull away.

Player to Watch: Northwestern’s SIDs

Seriously, this is amazing tweeting.

We need more gems like this on gameday.

Parker Johnson (@ParkerKJohnson): Ohio State 38, Northwestern 10

As much as I want to believe this should be a trap game for OSU, the Buckeyes have just been too good this year. Ohio State is 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 40.5 points per game. Northwestern has scored 72 points the entire season. Ohio State is better than Northwestern in every phase of the game, plain and simple. I think the best case scenario is something like the Big Ten Championship game from last season, with Northwestern sticking around through three quarters and losing steam at the end. I don’t really want to talk about the worst case scenario.

Player to watch: Cam Ruiz, DB, Northwestern

Ruiz was fantastic against Nebraska, making a number of key open field tackles and 1-on-1 plays in coverage. In the B1G title game last year, OSU exposed Northwestern’s #2 corner Alonzo Mayo. If Ruiz can hold it down opposite Greg Newsome, the Wildcats’ chances will drastically increase.

Ben Moskow (@BNMSKW): Ohio State 31, Northwestern 6

When I heard Joe Buck read off an announcement for this game during Game 2 of the ALCS, I felt sick to my stomach, and not just because Buck referred to our beloved Wildcats as “the Northwestern ballclub.” The ‘Cats enter this game at their lowest point in five years. Desperate to get their season back on track, Northwestern strikes first with a field goal and the first quarter ends at 3-0, ‘Cats. As the game goes on, Ohio State’s overwhelming edge in the talent department weighs on the Northwestern defense and the game slowly becomes the rout the pundits were expecting.

I have incredible faith in the Northwestern defense but know full well that their effort will be for nought, as the ‘Cats will be lucky to break double digits in scoring. Isaiah Bowser’s returning is likely to make the run game look slightly better but at the end of the day, Northwestern will fall short in large part due to the McCall playbook, which seems to have fewer options than a food truck. Look for the ‘Cats to squeak out a cover due to a great defensive effort, but ultimately allow the Ohio State defense to score more than their offense. 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rashawn Slater, LT, Northwestern

With all the hype surrounding Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins, Northwestern cannot forget about Ohio State DE Chase Young. In his first game back from injury, Slater will return to likely the toughest matchup of his career in Young, who has racked up 8.5 sacks, good for 2nd in the nation. Slater will not have to deal with Young alone but his ability to stop Young will dictate whether Northwestern will have any shot at moving the ball. 

Eric Rynston-Lobel (@ericr_l): Ohio State 48 Northwestern 10

The defense will struggle to contain Justin Fields for four quarters and the offense won’t be very good (shocking!). 

Player to watch: Binjimen Victor, WR, Ohio State

He’s the best receiver on one of the best offenses in the country. Greg Newsome and co. will have their hands full. 

Pat Timlin: Northwestern 24, Ohio State 21

I’m probably the only one optimistic enough to send in a score that favors the home team, but why am I so optimistic. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Northwestern as a program, is that they shock the world at every turn. The Cardiac ‘Cats will keep things slow and boring in the first half before the scoring erupts. Justin Fields throws for two touchdowns and runs in another, but the ‘Cats will be led by Drake Anderson on the ground with a defensive score from who other than J.R. Pace. The reason Coach Fitzgerald’s team is able to win lies in a Charlie Khubander 32 yard field goal before the first half ends. Ohio State typically falls once a year and why can’t it be on a chilly night in Evanston on a short week? 

Karan Gowda (@DalaiGowda): Ohio State 38, Northwestern 10

Friday night is going to feel like a big game. Ohio State and Northwestern fans streaming into Ryan Field, tailgates galore, a battle of pride and spirits in the stands. However, the gap is just too large between the actual football being played on the field. Ohio state is massive program that attracts much better recruits than Northwestern. An elite defense can only do so much against a constant stream of 5-star recruits. Questions over Mick McCall and the state of the Northwestern offense remain even though they have a 5-star transfer at QB in Hunter Johnson. On the other side, OSU’s 5-star transfer has been stellar for a team that hasn’t skipped a beat since the departure of Urban Meyer. The Wildcats offense just simply won’t be able to keep up.

Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern

A consistent rushing attack of J.K. Dobbins can only help Justin Fields and the effectiveness of the OSU offense. If Paddy Fisher and the rest of the defensive front can limit the effectiveness of the ground attack, a total blowout in front of the Evanston hopefuls can be avoided. 

Dave Peck (@dpeck10): Ohio State 42, Northwestern 10

Well, here we go. The Big Ten’s top dog vs. the Cardiac Cats in a matchup NU fans have been both anticipating and dreading for the past two weeks. But will it be as bad a game as some people think? I don’t believe so. Now, the score at the end of 60 minutes may look ugly for the Wildcats, but I could see the Northwestern defense keeping Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins, and the OSU offense relatively uncomfortable in the first quarter and a half. It’s the same old story for the Cats—tough defense and a frustratingly stale offense—so it would be irresponsible to give Northwestern the edge. The Wildcats keep it interesting early on, but Ohio State pulls away.

Players to Watch: Riley Lees, WR, Northwestern

NU’s offense has been, well, inconsistent so far this season. While it has won the possession battle in four of its five games, the Wildcats have a lowly seven offensive touchdowns to show for it. The defense has proven it can give this team a chance, so this week it’ll be WR Riley Lees who gets my call to action. Lees has shown signs of being a spark for a Wildcats offense that desperately seeks dynamism. If he can attract some attention and collected a couple of chunk plays throughout the game, Northwestern might create a smidge of uneasiness within the stingy Buckeyes defense.

Drew Myers: Ohio State 45, Northwestern 14

I hate that I am picking such a lop-sided victory in favor of Ohio State, but unfortunately I believe that it is time to face the reality that Ohio State is one of the best teams in the nation in the right now and Northwestern has one of the worst offenses in the country. While Ohio State’s schedule thus far has been relatively easy, they have dominated every game, winning every game they have played by double-digits. I don’t want to count Northwestern out of this game completely because their defense has certainly showed up in the games they have played, but it feels to me that the Wildcats are going to need a miracle to get their struggling offense to play at the level necessary to defeat Ohio State. That being said, I believe Northwestern will score points, but only in the 4th quarter when the game is well out of reach.

Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson vs. Aidan Smith, QBs, Northwestern

It will be really interesting after the bye week to see who Pat Fitzgerald will tap as the starting quarterback for the game. Aidan Smith got the start against Nebraska, but it’s possible that the bye week has served Hunter Johnson well and that he may start the game against Ohio State. However, I think a lot will depend on the score of the game and that it would be possible to maybe see both quarterbacks get some playing time in the game.

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