As part of our Buckeye Empire Summer Series, we are taking an early look at each game on the Ohio State schedule, from Buffalo all the way to Pasadena. Today’s article covers the Buckeyes Week 5 game against the Northwestern University Wildcats.
The first meeting between these two historic schools came on November 22nd, 1913 and resulted in a 58-0 win for Ohio State over a young Northwestern team.
Since that point, the Buckeyes and Wildcats have matched up 74 times and Ohio State has won 58 of those games by an average of 18 points.
The way the B1G scheduling has worked has postponed a matchup between these two teams for quite some time, the last meeting on November 8th, 2008. In that game, Ohio State trounced the Wildcats in Evanston by a final score of 45-10.
Ohio State (12-0, 6-0 B1G)
Northwestern (10-3, 5-3 B1G)
While we all know the legendary tale that was Ohio State’s 2012-2013 season, Northwestern had maybe an even more memorable campaign. A school not known for it’s football glory, Northwestern had it’s first 10 win season since 1995, a year when they went 10-2.
Last season in Evanston was characterized by some great play outside of the B1G and some decent play in it. Northwestern beat non-conference opponents such as Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, and Mississippi State, but faltered slightly against the Big Ten, as they fell to a resurgent Penn State team, Nebraska by a single point, and in the Big House to Michigan in an overtime thriller.
The Wildcats are certainly in a prime position to be one of the “underdog” teams of 2013 and will certainly be excited to get a piece of Ohio State for the first time since 2008.
There’s plenty of reason as to why there is a buzz around this Northwestern football team: they can beat you on the ground and through the air.
Lead by QB Kain Colter who had a whopping 1,766 yards of total offense last season, the Northwestern offense is a dynamic attack filled with a traditional ground game, an option attack, and an efficient passing game. You can see just how balanced the offense is through the numbers.
Colter, the athletic wonder, rushed for 894 yards on the ground and passed for 872 yards through the air. Senior running back Venric Mark lead the Wildcats with 1,366 yards rushing, while junior QB Trevor Siemian passed for 1,312 yards on just 128 attempts.
The 2,932 yards posted on the ground by the Wildcats and their option rushing attack placed them as the 19th ranked rushing team in the nation and the 5,130 total yards ranked them 64th in terms of total offense.
This season, we should expect more of the same from the Wildcats when they have the ball. Expect Colter to beat you through the air and on the ground and expect Siemian and Mark to do the same.
The Silver Bullets on defense for the Buckeyes will certainly have a tough task on their hands as they try to contain the Northwestern offense this season.
As for the Ohio State offense, we know the story. It’s going to be just as dynamic, if not more so, as any offense in the country. Heisman candidate, Braxton Miller, can do it all on his feet, but has taken steps to improve his passing game as well. Carlos Hyde, fresh off of the suspension, will be chomping at the teeth to get into a B1G defense. The wide receivers are going to be held to a high standard by Coach Meyer and will hopefully be up to the challenge. Playmakers Philly Brown and Dontre Wilson will be asked to do just that, make plays.
Ohio State’s spread offense is going to score points, and hopefully they’ll score enough to keep up with the Wildcats.
The offense may be the story when it comes to Northwestern, but their defense is certainly no joke either.
Last season, they ranked 47th in the nation in total defense, allowing their opponents to just 4,916 yards and 35 total touchdowns on the season. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald is a defensive-minded guy and prides himself on the success of his defense.
While they were certainly good last season, look for them to be just as good, if not better, this season.
Lead by senior defensive end and converted linebacker, Tyler Scott, the Wildcats return seven players to their defense and hope to build upon what they put together on the defensive side of the football last season.
Meanwhile on the other sideline, the Ohio State Buckeyes will look to vastly improve upon their 34th ranked defense from last season, but will have a big challenge in front of them.
Seniors Zach Boren, John Simon, Nathan Williams, Etienne Sabino, Travis Howard, and Garrett Goebel all went on to the next level, leaving the Buckeyes with room to grow for the front seven.
While the six seniors may seem irreplaceable, Meyer’s first recruiting class was filled with front seven talent, including defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt. Hopefully these young, but rare talents are ready to make a full impact in their first full season as starters on this defense, after contributing at a very high level last season.
Pat Fitzgerald has become a household name in the B1G conference and in the country, as is one of the up-and-coming coaches in college football.
When he was named the head coach of the Wildcats at just 31 years old, many didn’t know what to expect from Fitzgerald. Since, however, he’s become a model of consistency and character in Evanston.
As for X’s and O’s, Fitzgerald has put together a stellar offensive scheme in addition to his specialty on defense, but he may not have the edge when the Buckeyes come to town.
While the respect is abounding for each of these two great coaches, Ohio State will certainly have the edge as long as Coach Meyer is roaming the sidelines.
It’s almost impossible to tell at this point, but this matchup between Ohio State and Northwestern is supposed to be one of the toughest games on the schedule for both teams. An 8 pm game under the lights of Ryan Field in Evanston and the eye of the nation on ABC, Northwestern will certainly be ready for the challenge. I wouldn’t be surprised either way, but I’ll say that the Buckeyes come through and win on a late field goal, 36-35.