Coming off of its first loss of the season, the Buckeyes are set to return to action against Northwestern for the first time since 2013. The BSB staff came up with a list of five things to watch once Ohio State kicks off against the Wildcats.
1. Will Their Be Personnel Changes?
Urban Meyer said during the week that he did not foresee and personnel changes at any positions, but he has previously said how much players like Binjimen Victor have improved from fall camp. Along the offensive line, Isaiah Prince struggled mightily against Penn State, but the Buckeyes don't seem to have much behind him especially with graduate transfer Malcolm Pridgeon out with an injury. If anything, the most likely place for changes would be at wide receiver with perhaps a narrowed rotation.
2. How Will Ohio State Get Curtis Samuel The Ball?
The overwhelming question of the season has been how the Buckeyes will get Samuel the amount of touches he needs. Meyer said at the beginning of the season that Samuel should be getting around 15-20 touches per game. After getting just 10 against Penn State, the staff said they need to do a better job of getting him the ball without disrupting the flow of the offensive playcalling. For that to happen, quarterback J.T. Barrett will need to play well in making his pass reads and zone run reads which brings us to our next point.
3. Will Barrett Bounce Back?
In each loss Barrett has suffered at Ohio State, he has come back with a vengeance the following game. After losing to Virginia Tech in 2014, Barrett threw for six touchdowns in a 66-0 win over Kent State. Last season, Barrett accounted for four touchdowns in a 42-13 win over Michigan after a horrid performance against Michigan State. Meyer tends to be more aggressive in the passing game when at home, especially when it is an area of concern. Look for the Buckeyes to air it out early and often to try and get the confidence back for Barrett and the wide receivers.
4. Special Teams Performance
After one of the worst single game special teams performances in Meyer's career, will the Buckeyes be able to avoid similar mistakes against the Wildcats? Punter Cam Johnston seems to have been rolling more than usual recently on his rugby style punts. Will Ohio State go back to a traditional punt? Will they change their protection to keep the Wildcats from getting penetration? These are all things to keep an eye out for on Saturday.
5. Will The Buckeye Defense Contain Justin Jackson?
The last two weeks, Ohio State has struggled to contain the likes of Corey Clement and Saquon Barkley. The Buckeyes are tasked again with going up against statistically the best running back in the Big Ten in Jackson, who is averaging 113.14 yards per game this season. Linebacker play has been solid for Ohio State this season, but not stellar. This could be a game where Raekwon McMillan has a breakout performance with Jackson getting a plethora of carries.