Northwestern at Ohio St.
Time: 7 PM CT
Spread: OSU -15
Odds c/o Bovada
The Ohio State Buckeyes finished the regular season 11-1 with an 8-1 mark in Big Ten Play. Its lone loss actually came at the hands of Purdue, which cost it big time in the AP rankings and likely prevented OSU from cracking the top-4 and making the playoffs. All that notwithstanding, it can secure a Big Ten title with a victory over Northwestern this week. The Buckeyes are 15-point favorites according to college football oddsmakers at Bovada, and the over/under is set at 61 points. The game will air at 7 PM CT on FOX.
A lot of the drama surrounding Ohio State now is centering on whether or not Urban Meyer will return to coach the program. Obviously, if this is his final Big Ten title game with OSU, it will be marked with mixtures of sadness and relief, as his controversy started the season off on the wrong foot for Ohio State already. But perhaps those are topics best left for another day.
Ohio State held its opponents to 25.8 points per game this season while scoring 43.3 itself. Save the ugly loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, it was another classic Buckeye season, marked by one of the nation’s top pass offenses that generated 362.5 yards per game. The Buckeyes rush for another 181.4 per game, and there are few questions that a Meyer-led Buckeye team can score the football and run up points. That has marked Meyer’s tenure, and this game is not expected to be very close despite Northwestern putting together a pretty solid season in its own right. Ohio State defeated then-No. 4 Michigan handily at home, winning 62-39 and putting some doubt back in poll makers minds as to whether this team is really one of the top-4 in college football. If not for that ugly loss to Purdue, there would be no debates whatsoever.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for better than 4k yards this season while completing 69 percent of his passes. He threw 42 touchdowns and had seven interceptions. He did throw one of those seven picks against Purdue, a game in which he hoisted 73 total passes (Completing 49) and racked up 470 yards. Haskins has thrown for better than 400 yards four times this season, though one as mentioned, came in a loss. Haskins also ranks No. 4 on the team in rushing yardage with 127 yards on 63 carries, and he is No. 3 on the team in rushing touchdowns (four). Top running back J.K. Dobbins has rushed 206 times, but he averages just 4.7 yards-per-carry and has eight touchdowns on the season. Mike Weber averages 5.8 yards-per-carry but has roughly 70 percent the number of attempts Dobbins does.
Northwestern is ranked No. 21 and finished the regular season 8-4 with an 8-1 mark in Big Ten play. It is Northwestern’s best year in Big Ten play in anyone’s memory, and a win over OSU in the title game would obviously be an improbable icing to that cake that Wildcats fans would not soon forget.
But it is unlikely. Although Northwestern has defeated some tough teams this year, Ohio State has defeated those teams, for the most part too. Northwestern knocked off Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, but it lost to Michigan—and Ohio State is coming off a romp against that same Wolverines team.
Clayton Thorson had a mediocre season at quarterback, throwing 2,675 yards but completing just 60 percent of his passes and throwing almost as many interceptions (12) as he did touchdowns (14). And the entire Northwestern backfield only features one ball carrier who averaged better than five yards-per-carry. Its top two rushers, Isaiah Bowser and Jeremy Larkin, both average 4.6 and 4.8 yards-per-carry, respectively, and only Bowser saw more than 100 attempts with his 736 yards on 161 carries. Between Bowser and Larkin, there are 11 of the Northwestern 22 rushing TDs.
Northwestern scored 14 TDs via the pass, with its top receiver Flynn Nagel having caught 64 passes for 746 yards and two TDs. Six different Wildcats caught two or more touchdowns, with Thorson distributing his passes amongst the cast.