Ohio State suddenly turned into the team everyone thought it was going to be heading into the season and that’s why it still has a chance at the College Football Playoff. But that doesn’t mean it’s a given against Northwestern no matter what the spread says. The Buckeyes were -14 point favorites with an over/under of 60.5 as of Tuesday for the Game at LUcas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
If Ohio State plays like it did against Michigan, it’s hard to see Northwestern having a chance. Then again, the Bucks haven’t exactly played like that all season against a relevant team. The offense had been inconsistent in the second half of the year and the same goes for the defense that was trampled by Purdue.
Things have been much more consistent for Northwestern even though nothing has been pretty. OUtside of the usual non-Conference losses, the Wildcats managed road wins at Purdue, MSU and Iowa, but also took Michigan to the wire and beat Wisconsin by 14 points. But will any of that matter for an offense that rarely reached 30 points?
The Bucks maybe slowed down, but they still averaged more than 40 points per Game and are coming off a demolition of what was thought to be the best defense in the country. Dwayne Haskins did whatever he wanted against Michigan en route to six touchdowns and he comes into this one with 41 touchdowns and seven picks on 8.82 yards per attempt. The running Game hasn’t been as good, but Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins still found enough room against the Wolverines.
To have a chance, Northwestern has to keep this offense below 30 points and that won’t be easy. It doesn’t help that the best offense it faced all season was Notre Dame and that was a 10-point loss at home. Even then, it’s hard to compare the Irish’s offense to what Haskins and company bring to the table. The Wildcats have been solid defensively, but allowing 4.0 yards per carry isn’t good.
But if the defense doesn’t work, there’s a chance Northwestern could still compete if senior quarterback Clayton Thorson has the Game of his life. This offense hasn’t needed to Scoremuch this season, but against a defense that’s given up 90 points in the last two Games, that could change. Yet, the best chance is if Thorson doesn’t turn the ball over and he’s only managed 14 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions for 6.43 yards per attempt this year. Isaiah Bowser (736 yards) has been solid at running back, but the team is only averaging 3.0 yards per carry (sacks included) and that doesn’t help, either.
The spread is large because of how Ohio State just carved up Michigan. Northwestern has won by keeping Games low scoring, but that may not be an option against Haskins. If so, things could be up to Thorson to keep things close in his last Big Ten Game.
The Wildcats are 4-0-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 6-1 ATS in their last seven on field turf. The Buckeyes are 7-2 ATS in their last nine on a neutral site, but 1-4 ATS in their last five on field turf. The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings, but when these teams met two years ago, Northwestern covered as a huge underdog in a 24-20 loss. Clayton Thorson was the quarterback for that Game, as well.
Our Pick – Upset special? Why not! Northwestern has performed extremely well when stepping up in class this year. against ranked teams, they beat Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, and lost to Notre Dame by 10 and Michigan by3.
Ohio State on the other hand, has had their moments of weakness. LUcky to beat Maryland. One point win over Penn State. Blasted off the field by Purdue along with some fairly mediocre performances against not so great teams.
Northwestern won the Big 10 in 1995 and shared the Title in 1996 and 2000. since 2000, Ohio State has won it 8 times, including last year. Nothing new for Ohio State. But for Northwestern? Capturing the Big 10 Title in 2018 would be special. Not to mention the monkey wrench it will throw into the playoff picture!
Our model has Ohio State winning by 10 using data from the entire season. However, when only taking the last 7 Games into account, that margin shrinks to just 5. Either way, at two TD’s plus, the Wildcats are worth a play here. Expect Northwestern to show up. The added value we are getting as a result of last weeks results might just come in handy.
An outright win for Northwestern? Don’t rule it out. Northwestern +14.5