OVERVIEW: There is no doubt that Ohio State is a team in dire need of a home game right now, and the Buckeyes are coming off a tough two-game stretch against Wisconsin and Penn State. How will Ohio State play? Who are they as a team? A national power? Or a team that over-achieved early in the year against some God awful defenses? I believe this Saturday should give us part of that answer, because this team should be at their absolute best against Northwestern. They should be angry, and ready to get back out on the field and make up for last weekend's melt down in Happy Valley.
THE KEY FOR BOTH TEAMS: This is very tough to say, because I'm wondering who each of these teams are right now. Is Northwestern the team that lost to Western Michigan and Pickerington Central, errr I mean Illinois State who might not be as talented as Pickerington Central? Or the team that beat Iowa and Michigan State on the road, and easily beat Indiana last week? Is Ohio State the team that killed everyone the first few games, or the team that's struggled the past three weeks? I don't know those answers today, but we should know by Saturday evening. Ohio State needs to regain their confidence on offense, and this might be the perfect defense to get healthy against.
WHAT WILL OHIO STATE DO DEFENSIVELY? This has been a pretty darn good unit all year long, and they should be really good again this Saturday. I think they will limit Northwestern to less than 20 points. They need to get back to turning teams over again, because this Ohio State team just feasted off turnovers in the early part of the year. This is clearly one of the best defenses in the country, and they have been really good for all but the first half against Wisconsin. There is an alarming trait that as good as they are, they have given up drives at the very time they needed a three-and-out. It happened at Wisconsin late in the game, and it happened before the half at Penn State and late in that game up 21-7. There are times when you MUST be able to get a key stop. This unit has been really good all year, but that is something that needs improved upon.
WHAT WILL OHIO STATE DO OFFENSIVELY? The one thing you can count on during Meyer's time at Ohio State is being able to absolutely destroy bad defensive teams. This is where all the glittering offensive numbers come from, as well as the school records. Ohio State just kills teams when they get that chance, and this should be a very mad group of Buckeyes this week. Against Northwestern's shaky defense I expect the offensive line to maul people, Mike Weber to run over people, J.T. Barrett to run the zone read to perfection, Curtis Samuel to get the football, AND THE PASSING ATTACK TO SHINE. Everybody throws it well on Northwestern, so this is the week to get healthy from an offensive standpoint. If Ohio State cannot throw it this week, it will be an alarming sign going forward. The weather should be fine, and it looks like these guys can't play when it's misty or breezy, so no weather excuse this week.
THE "X" FACTOR: This game SHOULD be a blowout, and it SHOULD happen early. I expect Ohio State to come out sharp, hungry and loaded for bear, or maybe Wildcat. A great team will respond to a crushing loss by smothering the next opponent, and let's see if that happens by 4:30 Saturday afternoon. The talent gap is large, and Ohio State's motivation should be at the highest possible level.
THE VEGAS LINE: You know the boys out West are expecting a serious azz whipping by Ohio State. I thought 21 points was too high as an opening line. And it was. It's now 27, which is ridiculous to me. But the Vegas boys have kicked my tail the past few weeks, so I'm now below .500 after a great start. The total of 52 seems kind of low, but maybe this ends up 35-10? No official picks from me this week as I sit back and re-evaluate the Ouija Board calibrations.
THE GUESS: OHIO STATE 42 Northwestern 14.