Unfortunately for Northwestern, Ohio State was not looking ahead when the Buckeyes traveled to Evanston, Ill., Nov. 11, 2006.
No. 1 Ohio State, with a game against No. 2 Michigan looming a week later, took care of business by blasting Northwestern, 54-10, on a cold, windy day at Ryan Field.
The Buckeyes were never challenged, as the Wildcats committed three turnovers in the first quarter. Each led to scores and Ohio State led 21-0 after the first 15 minutes.
"When your defense creates pressure and your offense gets to play on a short field, good things can happen," OSU head coach Jim Tressel told Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "I thought Northwestern had a good game plan today, but our guys kept coming. They keep coming and eventually they're going to make something happen."
The Wildcats fumbled on the fourth play of the game when James Laurinaitis stripped receiver Shaun Herbert following a 21-yard catch. Television replays showed that Herbert was down before the fumble, but the play stood and Ohio State scored the game's first touchdown five plays later.
Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bachér also fumbled and threw an interception in the first quarter. Brandon Mitchell returned the interception for a 46-yard touchdown.
Thirty-four of Ohio State's 54 points came off Northwestern turnovers.
"I thought our kids played hard," first-year Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald told BSB. "We made some mistakes early and you just can't do that against a team as good as Ohio State. If you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay, and that's exactly what happened."
Eventually Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith completed 12 of 19 passes for 185 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Brian Hartline caught two of those touchdowns – the first of his career. Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr. caught the others.
Freshman Chris Wells led the OSU rushing attack with 99 yards on 11 carries. Junior Antonio Pittman had 80 yards on 19 carries, with most coming in the first half before he was rested for much of the second. Pittman's 80 yards pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He became the fifth Buckeye to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The others were Archie Griffin (1973-75), Tim Spencer (1981-82), Keith Byars (1983-84) and Eddie George (1994-95).
Sophomore cornerback Malcolm Jenkins led Ohio State with eight tackles. Linebackers Ross Homan and Laurinaitis each had five, and defensive back Antonio Smith and linebacker Marcus Freeman had four apiece. Sophomore defensive end Vernon Gholston had two sacks, and senior tackle Quinn Pitcock also had a sack.
While the Wildcats did not challenge Ohio State, several off-the-field issues did create some problems prior to gametime. Not only did the Buckeyes have to answer questions about the upcoming game vs. Michigan, but the Buckeyes had to switch planes before flying to Chicago the day before the game because a truck accidentally backed into the nose of their charter plane. Then bad weather in the Chicago area kept them on the ground in Columbus until 8 p.m. and forced the plane to land in Milwaukee instead of O'Hare International Airport. The Buckeyes did not arrive at their hotel until 10:30 p.m. local time following a 2½-hour bus ride.