(12) Ohio State v. (25) Northwestern

(12) Ohio State v. (25) Northwestern
Northwestern

(12) Ohio State v. (25) Northwestern

Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois
Kickoff: 12noon
TV: ESPN2

The Buckeyes are not only a long shot for the Rose Bowl but also a BCS bowl altogether.  Ohio State hasn’t been in this position since 2004 and many Buckeye fans are confused as to how to view the season.  Northwestern has played well all season and with a 7-2 record, are still entertaining hopes of a Big Ten title and a bid to a BCS bowl.  A win against the Buckeyes would certainly help both causes.  Historically, the Wildcats have not been successful against the Buckeyes winning only once in the past 34 years (2004).  The cards are easily stacked in favor of the more talented Buckeyes but effort and coaching will be the downfall for the Buckeyes if everything stays the same. 

By Pete Quint

OSU “O”

The offense has played and been coached out of contention for the National title and in all likelihood the Big Ten championship.  Saying the “season is over” is a bit of a defeatist mindset and offering a more optimistic outlook should talk a few of us off the ledge of the building.  Here is what the coaching staff has in mind now that they are grooming the team for a run in 2009.  The coaching staff is planning to throw caution to the wind and start drawing plays in the dirt to see what works with Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and company.  This will make for an incredibly exciting final three games as the offense lines up every which way and puts up 56 points per game.  All the offensive output will swell the confidence of the young Buckeyes as they ride the momentum into the 2009 season as the favorites to win the Big Ten and make a serious run at the national championship. 

Are you buying any of this? 

Here’s the red-flag stat that Ohio State needs to pay close attention to; Northwestern is second in the Big Ten in sacks and Ohio State is tenth in sacks allowed.  The Wildcats have a good defense and if the slow lumbering OSU offensive line doesn’t take them seriously, they will get stuffed, stopped and sacked all day.

OSU ”D”

Experts expected the Wildcats to tank after running back Tyrell Sutton and quarterback C.J. Bacher went down with injuries (Sutton for the season) but head coach Pat Fitzgerald and junior quarterback Mike Kafka had other plans last week against Minnesota.  Kafka threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a Big Ten quarterback single game record of 217 yards on the ground.  While Bacher is still penciled in at quarterback, his return is questionable.  Kafka could be utilized as a tailback or a wingback if Conteh continues to produce poor numbers.  The Wildcat offensive line is young with five new starters this season but despite the inexperience, the line is ranked 15th nationally in fewest sacks allowed (1.11 per game).  The Buckeye defense is incredibly stingy on giving up yards but isn’t very good at getting sacks (ninth in the Big Ten).  With the lack of a good pass rush, the defense will likely sit in a soft zone and attack the wide receivers looking for turnovers.

Summary

If the Buckeye offense continues to be poorly coached, the last three games of the season could easily turn out to be a 1-2 or a 2-1 record.  Northwestern is playing for a good bowl game and the Buckeyes will get their best shot.  Ohio State can’t snooze on this team or we will have a repeat of 2004.

Reality Prediction: OSU 20 – Northwestern 10
Optimistic Caution-to-the-Wind Prediction: OSU 56 – NU 10

Why OSU will win: 

Play loose and have fun; that goes for players AND coaches.  The season is essentially over and building for 2009 is a priority.  Now is the time to start making changes to the stuffy, boring, over-conservative offensive mindset and upgrade the play-calling to a new sleek modern model of fun and scoring.  Offense should not be offensive.

Why OSU will lose:

Same old same old.  The Buckeyes have superior size, speed, strength and depth but if the same play-calling, effort and drive rise to the surface they will still lose to a motivated Wildcat squad.

Crazy stat or the game:

- At Ohio State, Jim Tressel is 1-4 coming off a bye week.
- Chris Wells needs 141 yards rushing to eclipse 3,000 yards in his career.

NU players to watch:

Senior QB # C.J. Bacher
Junior QB #13 Mike Kafka
Junior S #4 Brendan Smith
Senior WR #9 Ross Lane
Senior WR #8 Rasheed Ward
Junior S #17 Brad Phillips
Senior LB #36 Prince Kwateng

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