Bank Blog: N. Illinois Preview

Ohio State looks to remain unbeaten this week when they take on Northern Illinois at home Saturday afternoon. What should Buckeye fans expect to see?

- Northern Illinois has been the class of the MAC recently, and they're a worthy opponent for Ohio State this week. Urban Meyer should have the full attention of his team this week, and this will be a good week to see how the team responds to being coached hard all week.

- First off, the offense is not playing well and there's no need to spin that at all. The game/scrimmage against Hawaii was ugly for sure, but we listed why there were reasons galore for that showing. This week however, there are no excuses. I would expect to see the Buckeyes firing on all cylinders against Northern Illinois.

- Everything starts and ends with the offensive line, and that part of football will never change. Ohio State will probably look to take it to Northern Illinois early, trying to establish the run to set up the pass. I know they want to have Zeke Elliott on a pitch count, and they are hesitant to run him a lot against the easy teams, but this offense begins and ends with pounding the ball between the guards. That sets up everything else. Whether it's Hyde or Zeke, this is where the offense flows from. If they can't pound it, they are reduced to playing horizontal, and aren't as tough to defend. You hate to see Zeke carry it 27 times again, but it might be necessary to get the offense rolling.

- The passing game has not been sharp, and again the same reasons apply: QB's rotating. WR's coming off suspensions. Integrating Braxton Miller. They need Cardale Jones to play more structured, with less improvisation, to keep drives rolling. You can't depend on 50-yard plays to score all the time, so I expect them to establish the run early and then air out the football to get the passing game going. Last year's team started rolling once Zeke was established as the inside runner, then J.T. Barrett's excellence in running the zone read and delivering the football on time and accurately took over. Neither the power game or the precision passing game has been established yet. I'm expecting it this week.

- Defensively, Ohio State has been dominant and I expect that to continue this week even though Northern Illinois can throw it pretty well. I don't see them scoring more than 17-20 points this week, and in today's offensive era that's good enough. The Buckeyes should be able to take away the run and force them to throw at will, which should lead to sacks and turnovers. It's hard to see Northern Illinois having any success with time of possession, which which keeps their defense on the field forever.

- Even in Northern's best year, which was in 2012, they were good but got killed by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Last year's team was really good and they got killed by Marshall in the bowl game. In between, they were beaten by Utah State in a bowl, so let's not confuse this team with Alabama or USC. They are good for the MAC, but should not be able to hang with Ohio State in the Horseshoe, and I do not think they will either.

THE PICK: Although I expect Ohio State to win, and win easily, the Buckeyes are probably going to come in at right around the Vegas number. This is the price you pay for being the number-one team in the country, and the line is definitely inflated. Ohio State has struggled covering these 30+ point spreads in the Meyer era, and I think this one will fall very close to the 34 point number. I do think there will be points scored in this game, unlike last week's snoozer. Let's call it Ohio State 48 N.ILL 17.

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