The Northwestern Wildcats have been prepping all year for this game and now that it’s finally here there’s no bigger event in town this weekend. The Wildcats enter their game Saturday Night ranked #16 and have the ability to snap a 17-game winning streak if they can defeat Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The game on Saturday will be the national spotlight game on ABC, which has assigned its top commentators to call the game: Brent Mussberger and Kirk Herbstreit. On top of tha, the the best player for the Wildcats will be in uniform come game time.
Venric Mark will be returning for this game after missing all of Northwestern’s season so far. This was expected as the severity of the injury wasn’t as bad as originally feared. With the importance of this game Fitzgerald wanted his best threat to be in top health. The Wildcats main focus will be to keep the high-powered offense of Urban Meyer off the field for as much as possible. The Buckeyes run a dual system quarterback similar to Northwestern’s offense with Siemian and Colter. The abilities of Kenny Guiton and Braxton Miller are unparalleled in the country. Meyer is going to try to keep the chains moving with both of these quarterbacks potentially being interchangeable in the lineup. Braxton Miller is right up there with Johnny Manziel in terms of dual-threat capabilities, which is why he’s part of the Heisman Trophy. conversation.
The key for Northwestern like any underdog will be to keep the game close until the fourth quarter when perhaps the game will become magnified causing youth to play a factor and change the game on a single mistake. The Buckeyes have outscored their opponents by a combined 195 points during the first quarter this year. Obviously, the Cats are going to have to avoid the 4-and-outs or the game could get out hand rather quickly.
The Northwestern Wildcats enter their home game as a +7 in Vegas, which is rather generous if you ask me. The Wildcats haven’t beaten OSU since this time nine years ago. Under Pat Fitzgerald they haven’t been able to stay within four touchdowns of the Buckeyes. The key for Northwestern: Venric Mark and Treyvon Green need to run the ball extremely effectively. Kain Colter has to be able to keep the defensive pressure off of him with those draws and hand-offs. If Colter is the beneficiary of an effective ground game then that’ll open up passing lanes down the middle. This could be in the realm of the possible because the Buckeyes lost their playmaking safety last week to a broken ankle. This will cause Meyer to have to insert a freshman at a key position.
Look for Northwestern to have a serious problem stopping the read option, however those defensive ends are going to have a serious problem slowing down whoever is taking the snaps. The crowd will be a big factor in slowing this down as well. Braxton Miller is a top notch athlete with a bunch of playmaking offensive weapons around him. His backup quarterback is a star, and there’s a reason Guiton is just that. Miller is going to have all day to read the play because of his athletic ability to elude pressure. Fitzgerald will hardly ever blitz because trying to disguise something against such a mobile athlete is extremely difficult.
Look for OSU to take control in the second half and make it a long night for the Wildcats. The only way Northwestern win is if Venric Mark saves the day. He’s going to have to go all “Ron Dayne” Saturday night. If Venric Mark continuously gashes OSU so that they have to fill the box every play in order to slow him down then Northwestern can win. The problem is that this is his first game of the season.
Treyvon Greene is a good player but OSU has won 17 games in a row for a reason. Northwestern isn’t as good as Wisconsin and OSU soundly beat them. Venric Mark is the key, but I’m not betting against Urban Meyer in this showcase.