EVANSTON, Ill. – Fourth-ranked Ohio State swings back into action after a bye week with a rare Friday night game at Northwestern. The Buckeyes rolled through the first half of their schedule without showing many flaws, but the back half could be a bit more challenging.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Ohio State -28
After Ohio State travels to Northwestern, it returns home to take on No. 6 Wisconsin in what's shaping up as a major matchup with Big Ten and College Football Playoff implications. But first the Buckeyes have to take care of business in Evanston, where they have a 62-14-1 all-time record. Ryan Day (9-0) has yet to lose a game as head coach and it would be a major upset if Ohio State's 12-game overall win streak ended against Northwestern, which is also coming off a bye. After winning the Big Ten West Division last year before losing to Ohio State in the conference championship game, the Wildcats find themselves at the bottom of the standings this season and in serious danger of falling to 0-4 in the league unless they can pull off a huge upset.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
It's hard to find fault with the Buckeyes offensively or defensively, and the numbers confirm that, with Ohio State ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense, total defense, scoring offense, scoring defense, rushing offense, rushing defense, pass efficiency, pass efficiency defense and turnover margin. The offense is led by quarterback Justin Fields, who's third nationally in points responsible with 26.0 per game and sixth in pass efficiency, and junior running back J.K. Dobbins, whose 137.7 yards per game rank second in FBS. On defense, Chase Young checks in tied for second in the country in sacks per game with 1.42.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten)
The Wildcats' only win came at home against UNLV on Sept. 14 and they have dropped Big Ten games against Michigan State (31-10), Wisconsin (24-15) and Nebraska (13-10) since. A defense led by its linebackers has played better than the sputtering offense, which is averaging 14.4 points per game and ranks last in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (140.4). Backup quarterback Aidan Smith started last week against Nebraska instead of highly regarded transfer Hunter Johnson, who hasn't lived up to expectations, and both could play against Ohio State.
1. Dobbins has rushed for one more yard than Heisman Trophy contender Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin through six games (826-825) on 13 fewer carries (129-116), but Taylor has scored 18 touchdowns compared with Dobbins' seven.
2. Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah leads the Big Ten with three interceptions and is tied for third in passes defensed behind Nebraska's Lamar Jackson and Northwestern's Greg Newsome.
3. Northwestern's most effective offense weapon is RB Drake Anderson (74 carries, 366 yards, three touchdowns).
PREDICTION: Ohio State 42, Northwestern 7