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Three Things To Watch from the Northwestern Wildcats

The Buckeyes look to continue their dominance over the Wildcats

Wisconsin v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel used to preach to his players that “September is for pretenders, November is for contenders.” With the calendar now firmly on the November page, and the Buckeyes currently second in the College Football Playoff rankings, the game at Northwestern is an opportunity for Ohio State to demonstrate that statement to their fans and doubters across the college football landscape.

The oddsmakers have firmly spoken that Ohio State should easily vanquish Northwestern, as the Buckeyes are favored by 38 points. The weather forecast for Saturday’s game is for a rainy and windy environment, but Ohio State should be able to overcome those difficulties. Below are Three Things To Watch from Northwestern as the game kicks off on ABC at 12:00 p.m. ET.

  1. The Ohio State running game vs. Northwestern’s defense

For the last two games, Ohio State has struggled to run effectively. As written up above, the weather of November in B1G country has a tendency to be more of a factor than during September and October, and it would seem this game represents a chance for Ohio State to figure out what has and has not been working in the running game against a Northwestern defense that has been giving up an average of around 186 yards per game.

A player that I am anxious to see is freshman running back Dallan Hayden. With Miyan Williams possibly being withheld or having reduced playing time due to injury concerns, Hayden has a chance to demonstrate to the coaching staff that he is ready to carry the load, alongside TreVeyon Henderson.

2. The Ohio State defensive line vs. Northwestern’s running game

Northwestern running back Evan Hull is among the few bright spots offensively for the Wildcats. With Northwestern having so much inconsistency at the quarterback spot, Hull has rushed for 579 yards and 3 touchdowns, and is also the Wildcats’ reception leader with 45 catches for 461 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Ohio State’s defensive line was especially disruptive at Penn State last week, and will need to focus more on limiting the running lanes for Hull and his teammate Cam Porter. One of the interior defensive linemen who flashed in the Penn State win is Tyleik Williams, who was credited with 5 total tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss. Williams is the kind of “space eater” who could make things even more difficult for the Northwestern running game.

3. Will we see more of the backups?

This has been a lament by Ohio State fans such as myself all season, but at this stage of the season, it is so important to get the backups into the game. Like every other team, Ohio State has players nursing varying degrees of bumps and bruises from the season, and it is important to rest those key starters for the crucial November stretch run. Hayden and Williams are among the players I mentioned that I could see getting substantial playing time in this game to my podcast partner Michael Citro AKA “The Grumpy Old Buckeye” on our latest Silver Bullets Podcast, and it is possible that substitutes could be taking over very early in the second half.

At 1-7, Northwestern is looking at a long offseason of probable coaching turnover. The Wildcats have not been the same since their shot at glory against Ohio State in the 2020 B1G Championship Game, and Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald may start to feel the heat from angry Wildcats supporters. Iowa dominated Northwestern 33-13 last week, and Ohio State had no problems with shutting down the Hawkeyes offensively. Northwestern just does not have the players to keep pace against a deeper and more talented Ohio State team. I have it Ohio State 56, Northwestern 7.