Pregame Intel: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State is the Big 10's highest ranked team right now, and the Northwestern Wildcats get to play them Saturday, in Columbus at the "Shoe" and on ABC on the East Coast. But Randy Walker found a "lucky" buckeye nut while walking around the other day. Will that, combined with some outstanding play by NU lead to two in a row over the OSU Buckeyes?

The Biggest issue Saturday could be the resurgence of the Ohio State offense
Yes, its OSU Senior day, the last home game for 16 Bucks, and a big day for both sides of the ball, but Jim Tressel has a lot of praise for his offense lately - they've got a QB who suddenly is playing with the league leaders - but also has a healthy respect for the Wildcat's D--
you're going to have to earn every play you get. You know, sometimes you go into the game and say you know what if we can catch them in this coverage, we can hit a home run and so forth. That doesn't happen much against Northwestern. You're going to have to be very efficient and very consistent and play probably the most efficient game we've played offensively to date. -- Tressel Monday news conference
So here we go, Northwestern's high powered offense against the Buckeye's smash mouth defense. Ohio State is the highest ranked team [#8 BCS/#10 AP] NU has faced this year, and its all because of the top defense in the Big 10.
'We have a huge task this week,'' Randy Walker said [Chicago Sun-times]. "Ohio State is a very good team. A lot of familiar names we played against last year, but they're one year bigger, faster, stronger, better. They close the gaps quickly, and we have to execute well."
Execute Well - and that extends to the turnover ratio. The Cats are still +8 in turnovers vs giveaways, the Bucks are -6. NU has had that +8 number drop in the last few games, and OSU has been improving.

According to OSU coach Jim Tressel:
"...the most important thing in my mind, is we didn't have an offensive turnover [against Illinois], and that's critical, especially in November.
He further elaborated:
"I haven't seen a whole bunch of missed opportunities by our defense," he said [quoted on the WBNS Site]. "I haven't seen our guys drop a bunch of balls, or a bunch of balls rolling on the ground that we didn't go for.
The question is how OSU #1 in the Big 10 and #7 in the nation in defense, can only have 10 takeaways. Something for NU, with 4 INTs and a bunch of fumbles lately to be careful of Saturday.

There are couple of special teams players to note, especially the kicker., Josh Huston
Eight touchbacks is something that I'm not sure I've seen. And I think he's got a bunch of them in a row. And I know that he has a goal of having more touchbacks than Mike Nugent had a year ago -- Jim Tressel Press conference.
And the speedy and dangerous Ted Ginn, who has a bunch of long kick and punt returns. I'd expect more than a few pooch and corner kicks by NU Saturday.
Offense:
QB Troy Smith was named the offensive guy against Illinois - he's 96 for 160 on the season for 1,563 yards with only 3 interceptions. But the OSU offense under Smith only averages 195.4 yards per game passing with 13 TDs.

Smith has come alive lately - He's completed 51 of 79 over the last 4 games - with 10 TDs and no interceptions. He's first in the Big 10 in passing efficiency too.

Santonio Holmes is the big target. He caught 2 or more passes in 27 consecutive games. Ginn is also hot lately with 4 catches and 138 yards last week against Illinois, that's 34.5 yards per catch.

Oh yes, they also have a running back, Antonio Pittman averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 108 yards per game.

One bright spot, their offensive line is about the same size as Iowa's this year.
Defense:
The Buckeye challenged with stopping the NU running game has to be LB A.J. Hawk. He's a Butkus award finalist, a Lott Trophy semifinalist and looking to repeat as All Conference and All American. Tressel calls him a "consummate linebacker. Tough and Ferocious...a complete team player."

So watch the defensive matchup between NU's Tim McGarigle and OSU's A.J. Hawk - both seniors, both at the top of their game.

Another player that will also have to be big for the Buckeyes' Defense - Marcus Green - was named as the "attack force" by Tressel during his press conference for his play against Illinois.

The big issue will be NU's first down calls - if they're ahead of the chains by 5 or more yards, Baz can mix up the Option, with the run and short passing and eat you alive. Get the Cats behind the chains either by good D or penalties, and NU isn't quite as good.

The Bucks also start a true freshman at right corner, Malcolm Jenkins might become a target for Baz' passing.
Overall:
Then there's the revenge factor? or is it a factor?
"The results of the game are put away, and everyone knows them, and everyone knows how they feel about it," -- Jim Tressell The Canton Repository
And regardless of what you say, Tressel has a lot of respect for Randy Walker and the Wildcats.
They've done a great job. You know, Randy Walker is coaching that team just like he played, relentless. You know, first class.

What the Cats Have to Do:
  • Execution on Offense - we have to be multi-dimensional - both a running game and a passing game
  • don't get behind the chains
  • No Takeaways - NU leads the Big 10 in this one.
  • No Penalties
  • How about a Punt Return? As several list members have noted, we've taken a lot of fair catches this year
As Randy Walker keeps saying, NU has to play a virtually perfect game to win this one. Our Seniors are capable of playing that way, so the challenge is can the rest of the team follow for 60 minutes.

The Game is on ABCstarting at 11 AM [Wildcat Time] with NU Alum Bret Musberger and Gary Danielson in the booth, Jack Arute will be on the sidelines. It will also be on WGN and WNUR
Dave Eanet and Ted Albrecht are the radio guys.
We'll be chatting at the same spot

You can send your comments or "back door" information
to Coach Roy
Go Cats
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Purple Wildcats Top Stories

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