* Date, Time: Sat., Nov. 12; time, TV TBA (ABC has a doubleheader at noon and 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 12. If OSU is anywhere near the top 10 and Northwestern – representing the Chicago market – is anywhere near respectable, look for this game in the noon slot and Iowa-Wisconsin at 3:30, perhaps.)
* Location: Ohio Stadium.
* Last Year: 6-6. Big Ten: 5-3/fourth.
* Coach: Randy Walker (seventh year at NU, 30-41; 16th year overall, 89-76-5).
* Returning Starters: 13. Offense (5): C Trevor Rees, RG Matt Ulrich, RT Zach Strief, WR Jonathan Fields, WR Mark Philmore, QB Brett Basanez. Defense (5): DE Loren Howard, DT Barry Cofield, MLB Tim McGarigle, WLB Nick Roach, SS Brian Heinz. Specialists (2): K Joel Howells, P Ryan Pederson.
* Big Ten Championships: 8, last shared title in 2000.
* Rose Bowls: 2, last appearance in 1995.
* BCS Bids: None.
* National Championships: None.
* Series Vs. Ohio State: OSU leads all-time series 55-14-1, including 30-8-0 in Columbus. NU snapped a 24-game losing streak against OSU with a stunning 33-27 overtime win over the then-No. 7 ranked Buckeyes in Evanston. That streak dated to a 1971 NU win in Columbus. The Wildcats had lost 14 straight to the Buckeyes in Evanston, dating to 1958.
* Schedule: Sept. 3, Ohio U.; Sept. 10, Northern Illinois; Sept. 17, at Arizona State; Sept. 24, Penn State; Oct. 8, Wisconsin; Oct. 15, at Purdue; Oct. 22, at Michigan State; Oct. 29, Michigan; Nov. 5, Iowa; Nov. 12, at Ohio State; Nov. 19, at Illinois.
* Outlook: The Wildcats thrived on overtime games last year, going 3-1 in games tied at the end of regulation. They were one win away, however, from qualifying for postseason play. The season-ending 49-41 loss at Hawaii cost NU at least a bid to the Music City Bowl.
"We are real excited in Evanston," Walker said. "It is nice to have a real strong core of senior leadership. In seven years at Northwestern, we have seen some ups and downs. But I think we have a core of leadership I haven't seen in 30 years of coaching football."
As always, the offense looks to be the strong point. Basanez (2,838 yards passing, 12 TDs) is back for his fourth year as the starting quarterback.
"Like a lot of quarterbacks, there are times he gets greedy," Walker said. "Patience at quarterback is a great virtue. It's really hard sometimes to fight that desire to chuck it downfield and show how big your arm is. He can take what the defense gives us and be patient all the time and continue to improve. Brett has come a long way in that regard. He's a lot different than he was as a freshman.
"He starts his fourth year as the starting quarterback at Northwestern. That gives us a lot of options on the offensive side of the ball when you have a guy who is that versed and that versatile. I don't think there's a quarterback that works harder than Brett Basanez. He constantly works at his trade. He has taken himself as far physically as he can.
"When he got to our place, he weighed 185 pounds. Now he is right around 218. I tease him all the time. He almost resembles a Division I football player now."
Philmore (54 catches) and Fields (48 catches) will be inviting targets. Senior Terrell Jordan (315 yards rushing) steps in for Noah Herron in the one-back offense.
McGarigle (151 tackles) is the biggest name on defense.
"We have Tim McGarigle at linebacker," Walker said. "If you were in a fox hole, that's the guy you want beside you. Great kid, hard worker and he loves to practice this game. I ask him, `Is there something wrong with you?' because he is honestly excited about going out there every day."
Roach (83 tackles) is also a key play maker. NU will miss defensive tackle Luis Castillo (first-round NFL pick) and cornerback Jeff Backes (injury waiver).
"Generally, we have a good nucleus of guys but we also have guys you don't know about yet," Walker said. "These guys will need to step up. We will have to find a new tailback, some offensive lineman and will need to fill in in the secondary. But we have good leaders and our kids are poised and ready to step up. We want to come out of the box with a bang and be at our best early."
Early in preseason camp, the Wildcats saw Howard go on the shelf – perhaps for the year – with tendonitis in his leg.
* Steve Helwagen Says: I was in Evanston last year and I saw Northwestern beat Ohio State. I saw it with my own two eyes. I was 3 years old the last time that happened. And, as hard as it is to say, NU pretty much dominated that game. Justin Zwick got hot down the stretch and the Buckeyes forced the overtime.
NU piled up 444 yards and was 12 of 20 on third-down conversions, many of them for 9 or 10 yards or longer. It just wasn't Ohio State's night.
Turning the page to this year, Basanez is back for his fourth year as the starter at quarterback. He threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns against OSU a year ago. My guess is he and the NU offense will be fairly strong. I like the receiving corps with Philmore and Fields. If they can find a replacement for Noah Herron at running back, they may really be an offense to watch.
If the reports of Howard's injury are true, the Wildcats would lose a valued defensive lineman. McGarigle is a steady guy who piles up the tackles. The key for NU – as it always seems to be – will be whether it can get opposing offenses off the field.
This will again be a dangerous game for Ohio State. The Buckeyes could very well be 8-1 or 9-0 when they host the Wildcats. The season-ending trip to Michigan the following week would be looming large. But last year proved that OSU can no longer overlook NU.
It would be the final game for OSU's seniors, including such names as Hawk, Carpenter, Salley, Sims and Mangold. You know they will want to go out on a high note – and bury one of the teams that dealt them some heartbreak one year ago.