Drive Ending in Seven: The keys

Northwestern will need its stars to show up in full force on Saturday.

1-a) Kain Colter

Northwestern's starting quarterback led the stirring upset of Nebraska in 2011. The Wildcats can use his versatility to an advantage, especially with a healthy Venric Mark. This, in so many ways, is his game to win. He's the player most capable of singlehandedly beating Ohio State.

1-b) Trevor Siemian

NU needs to rediscover its passing game on Saturday. That begins with the much-improved Siemian, who can spread the ball to a talented receiving corps. Last year, he had some of the team's most memorable plays—including the go-ahead TD at Michigan and the game-winner to Demetrius Fields against Syracuse. NU could use more of the same.

2) Venric Mark

Expect Mark to be near full strength this weekend. The All-American showed his characteristic elusive ability on the practice field, and should receive a steady workload. If the read option can flourish, the Buckeyes will struggle to slow this offense.

3) Ibraheim Campbell

Campbell broke onto the scene against Michigan in 2011, intercepting Denard Robinson twice in the disappointing loss. Since then, he's been one of the Wildcats' top defensive players, and should help to cut down any Braxton Miller deep balls.

4) Dean Lowry

NU's most valuable player through the first month, Lowry established himself as an elite option alongside Tyler Scott. The true sophomore can disrupt passing lanes and pressure the quarterback as he gradually sheds the "underrated" tag.

5) Tony Jones

Finally, NU went back to finding its one dominant receiver. With Christian Jones an excellent No. 2, Jones emerged as a major threat in the mid-range passing game. With Rashad Lawrence struggling and a lack of production behind the top duo, Colter and Siemian will look to T. Jones in passing situations.

6) Nick VanHoose

Forget about the early season struggle. Somewhere in VanHoose is the competitor's edge and consistency that defined his 2012 season. NU, with its excellent front seven, might be able to slow the OSU run game enough to force Miller's hand. In that case, the Wildcats would benefit from their best corner playing to his potential.

7) Tyler Scott

Still an exceptional pass rusher, Scott needs to finish plays on Saturday. One worry heading into the season was that the loss of Quentin Williams might lead opposing defenses to concentrate on Scott. With Lowry opposite him, it's hardly a concern anymore. It's easily one of the top Big Ten defensive end tandems.


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