On Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the surprising 8-4 Northwestern Wildcats will take on a resurgent 11-1 Ohio State Buckeyes squad to determine this year’s champion of the Big Ten conference. The Wildcats had some trouble out of conference this year with three losses, but they were stellar in Big Ten play with a mark of 8-1.
The Buckeyes have not looked like their usual dominant selves for much of the season, but the slumbering giant woke up in big league fashion last week by dropping the hammer on the Michigan Wolverines. Ohio State was actually a 4.5-point home underdog heading into that one, but they made it crystal clear that the conference still runs through them when the final whistle blew.
Ohio State is looking for its second consecutive Big Ten title and hoping to sneak into the College Football Playoff with a big win, while Northwestern is seeking a big upset which could act as a springboard for the program. Let’s take a look at what should be a highly entertaining game in full detail.
Northwestern vs. Ohio State, 8 PM EST, Sat. Dec. 1, FOX
Northwestern vs. Ohio State pick:
These two squads shared some common opponents this season, and the the respective results for one of them are pretty interesting. Northwestern was able to defeat Purdue by a score of 31-27 in the season opener, but the Boilermakers handed the Buckeyes their lone loss of the season. Ohio State was on the road for that primetime affair, and they went down in shocking fashion by a score of 49-20.
Purdue is a tougher team than their 6-6 record suggests, and it was a proverbial trap game for Ohio State in front of a raucous crowd in primetime. That said, the Buckeyes of years past do not lose that game, and it serves as a reminder that the club has been somewhat out of sync in 2018 in comparison to previous years.
|Record||Conf. Rec.||PF||PA||Streak||Standings||CFP Rank|
|Ohio State||11-1||8-1||520||310||W4||1-B10 East||#8|
Following the win over Purdue, Northwestern suffered through a brutal three-game losing streak. Not much was expected of the Wildcats from that point, but the team turned it around and won 7 of its last 8, with its lone loss coming to Notre Dame over that span. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has done a solid job of righting the ship for what could have easily been a lost season.
As for Ohio State, the 11-1 record that head coach Urban Meyer and company have put together speaks for itself. While the team has not looked as solid as previous Buckeyes squads, the team saved the best for last in last week’s dominating win over rival Michigan. The Buckeyes dropped 62 points on what was thought of as one of the top defenses in the nation entering the game, and it could’ve been even more if they didn’t decide to play nice and take a knee at the end.
On paper, the Buckeyes are clearly the better squad offensively. In fact, Ohio State brings one of the nation’s most prolific offensive attacks to the table, led by sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins, who is in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy with his 41 touchdown tosses versus seven picks. Haskins has a plethora of weapons at his disposal, and the Buckeyes can put up points in a hurry in a number of different ways.
The defense is not as stout as one would expect from Ohio State, but they can do enough to get the job done, as demonstrated by how well they frustrated the Wolverines last week. As for Northwestern, the school has been involved in a number of tight affairs through the course of the season, and they have especially gotten the job done in conference play by winning eight of nine. That bodes well for them to make this one more interesting than may be expected.
The recent history in this series is clearly on Ohio State’s side, as they hold a mark of 9-1 straight up and 6-3-1 against the spread over the last 10. The Over has come out six times over that span, including in four of the last five meetings.
The most recent meeting took place in 2016, a 24-20 home victory for Ohio State in a game in which they were favored by 26 points with a projected total of 53.5 points. Fr this meeting, the Buckeyes are 14-point favorites with an Over/Under of 61 points.
From a bottom line perspective, Ohio State is the better team. They should be able to pull out the win as a result, and the momentum from last week’s big win over Michigan doesn’t hurt. That said, Northwestern has played most opponents tight this season, and we see them bringing enough to the table to keep this one interesting while making the Buckeyes have to work for it.
We’ll take Northwestern plus the points in what should be an interesting Big Ten title game.