We know–or at least should know–that Northwestern has the requisite talent to compete with Ohio State. With offensive playmakers, the two-quarterback system and an incredible defensive end tandem, NU screams: "Upset potential."
For anything positive to happen on Saturday, though, the Wildcats need to address their primary September weakness. Never mind Braxton Miller; they might as well fear Braxton Miller the passer. Even against cupcake opponents like Western Michigan and Maine, the NU corners fell victim to deep passes—a regression after last year's resurgence.
The struggles began when redshirt junior Daniel Jones went down with a season-ending knee injury at Cal. There was little depth behind him, even with some predicting that Dwight White would emerge as a stud in dime packages. White looks completely unprepared for the starter's role, despite some nice moments.
After his breakout redshirt freshman season, Nick VanHoose has struggled to regain form. He admitted to not being mentally prepared for the Cal game, when freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw for 450 yards. Since then, he's been decent. The Wildcats might need something great to slow down the OSU passing game.
Although the Buckeyes haven't focused on one dominant receiver, Miller works with strong wideouts including Corey "Philly" Brown and Devin Smith. Expect OSU to target White early on, hoping to pounce on NU with more of the same big plays.
I highly doubt Matt Harris will see an increased workload this weekend, but things happen.
Many have called for White to be replaced. Thing is, there aren't many alternatives. C.J. Bryant never seemed like a viable candidate, while Harris lacks significant experience.
Still, the Wildcats are 4-0. Saturday is a new game. White made an excellent impression during spring, showing quickness and focus that helped him rise up the depth chart.
It's the lingering question: Can the NU secondary play well enough against Ohio State? Against the rest of the Big Ten? The outcome just might hinge on it.