Northwestern vs. Ohio State Preview: Buckeyes Look to Bounce Back

After a potential season-changing loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes look to get back on track when a pesky Northwestern team comes to Columbus.

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nwNorthwestern Wildcats

RECORD: 4-3

CONFERENCE RECORD: 3-1

NEXT OPPONENT: vs. Wisconsin Badgers

GAME INFORMATION

LOCATION: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

BETTING LINE: Ohio State (-24)

OVER/UNDER: 110

Ohio StateOhio State Buckeyes

RECORD: 6-1

CONFERENCE RECORD: 3-1

NEXT OPPONENT: vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

NORTHWESTERN PLAYER TO WATCH

Justin Jackson – Runningback – # 21

There has been a formula to hang with the Buckeyes and that has been revealed the past few weeks: minimize mistakes, make J.T. Barrett make decisions, and run the ball until something opens up. It is no secret that there are holes in Ohio State’s depth chart that leave them vulnerable but they are more than capable of playing through them if opponents do not stick to their game plan. Running back Justin Jackson must stay patient and continue to run the ball at will to free up Northwestern’s offense. Although this relies heavily on the Wildcats defense, Jackson is more than a capable athlete in the Big Ten and Northwestern should and will rely on their back to move the chains to slow down the pace of the game. Ohio State’s loss a week ago leaves them vulnerable and pissed off; this could work in Jackson’s favor if he runs the ball with patience and continues to frustrate the Buckeye’s front seven with his big play ability.

OHIO STATE PLAYER TO WATCH

J.T. Barrett – Quarterback – # 16

Ohio State heads into practice this week with two options: to lay down or to respond. Urban Meyer is a winner, simple as that, and he has installed that mentality into each and every guy in the locker room. Whether Ohio State decides to respond or to worry about its fate, is up to the team and it starts with their clear captain. This selection of player to watch is not about football, it is about a mindset; J.T. Barrett must instill the idea of winning back into Ohio State’s roster, no matter how he does it. There have been questions about his decision making in recent weeks and although he is a Heisman caliber player, he must prove that he has the mental capacity to right his wrongs and move forward as an individual and as a team. Look for J.T. to walk into the “Horseshoe” with a divine purpose Saturday and prove to the nation that Ohio State has the capability of being as good as they should be, no matter how young or inexperienced the roster may appear. There are holes on every roster, it is the capability of playing past that that J.T. must prove in coming weeks.

Northwestern Wildcats Key Positions

QUARTERBACKS:

Northwestern has relied heavily on their starting quarterback this season, making plays with his legs and with his arm. Clayton Thorson will have to make great decisions with the ball and choose his big play opportunities accordingly. Look for Northwestern to live off of the play action pass and for Thorson to try and get the ball in the hands of his stud receiver, Austin Carr.

SECONDARY:

It is no secret that the Buckeyes have struggled to generate a consistent offense for four quarters and that mostly has to do with a struggling passing game. Both Montre Hartage and Kyle Quiero reeled in an interception a week ago against Indiana and will be asked to make plays in the secondary again in Columbus. If the Wildcats’ secondary can force Barrett’s into an inconsistent passing game again, they will hang around with the Buckeyes for four quarters.

COACHING:

Pat Fitzgerald, I hope you took notes. Fitzgerald will have the tough task of traveling to Columbus to take on a pissed off Ohio State team. It is too early to tell if the Buckeyes’ loss hurts or helps Northwestern but without a near perfect game plan, Ohio State is still the better team. Consistency should be preached in the locker room this week for the Wildcats and Fitzgerald should have his team fired up coming out of the tunnel at the Horseshoe on Saturday.

GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS

The 4-3 Wildcats travel to Columbus to take on the 6-1 Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Northwestern is on a three-game hot streak, beating three of their last four big ten opponents as Ohio State tries to right the ship after a heartbreaking loss against Penn State in Happy Valley.

Northwestern began the season with a shaky 1-3 start but has come into their own, relying on their quarterback – running back duo to carry their team. Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson will be relied on heavily this Saturday as they hope to exploit holes in Ohio State’s front seven. On the defensive side of the ball, Northwestern will be asked to stop Ohio State’s big play ability in the running game and force J.T. Barrett into some uncomfortable decision-making. The key for Northwestern is to play a full four quarters in the “Horseshoe” and stay patient with their game plan.

On the opposite sideline Ohio State returns home from a two game road trip with some uncertainty. After an overtime win against Wisconsin and a loss at Penn State, Ohio State must find their identity heading into their home matchup against Northwestern. Look for Meyer to put an emphasis on pushing the football down field and readopting their edge speed on both sides of the ball. Key veterans such as J.T. Barrett, Raekwon McMillan and Curtis Samuel will have to instill confidence back into their young team and keep their goals in mind. This week is not about football, game plan, practice, etc. for Ohio State but about their mental ability to move forward and finish their season the way it was imagined.

Ohio State Buckeyes Key Positions

OFFENSIVE LINE:

The offensive line gave up six sacks and had a hard time keeping their star quarterback upright against Penn State a week ago. Pat Elflein and company must right their wrongs and find a way to give J.T. Barrett time to operate the offense. Barrett has already struggled to find comfort in the pocket since week three and although he has held the ball too long, his big play ability is irrelevant if he is hurt or on his back. Look for the offensive line to take responsibility for the loss in week seven and hold themselves accountable in week 8 against Northwestern.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

The best way to overcome a tough loss is to take it out on your next opponent; just ask the 2014 Buckeyes as they slammed Wisconsin 59-0 in a big ten championship game. Look for the defensive line to answer critics and get behind the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis week eight. After only one sack against the Nittany Lions last week, the Buckeyes will be shooting to kill at the “Horseshoe” against the Wildcats on Saturday.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

This section could be left blank and readers would know that the Buckeyes’ special teams would be a key in week 8. A blocked field goal and a blocked punt in one season is an issue but in one game, it is catastrophic. Special teams robbed Ohio State from a perfect season last week against the Nittany Lions and will be a sure focus for the Buckeyes this week in practice. Ohio State must forgive and forget on special teams and find confidence again in their kicking/punting game.

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Author Details
Beau Kirkbride is a student at The Ohio State University, where he studies Sports Industry and Management. Growing up a Saints and Buckeyes fan, football is his passion.
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Beau Kirkbride is a student at The Ohio State University, where he studies Sports Industry and Management. Growing up a Saints and Buckeyes fan, football is his passion.

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