Congratulations to Penn State on the 24-21 victory over Ohio State in Beaver Stadium on October 22nd. The team that wanted it more won the game, plain and simple. Fans can make excuses, and I pin the loss to Penn State more on poor coaching, but I believe Eleven Warriors’ Ramzy Nasrallah stated it best with this tweet on Saturday evening…
Play better than having to rely on a 4th quarter whistle to a 19-point underdog, IMO— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) October 23, 2016
On to Northwestern, a team that has won its last three games, and scored at least 24 points in every one of those victories. Northwestern is led by the best running back in The B1G that nobody truly talks about, and that is Justin Jackson. Jackson has rushed for 792 yards this season, with six touchdowns on the ground, and will be the primary concern of the Ohio State defense.
Not taking away from the rest of the Wildcat offense, QB Clayton Thorson (14 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) and WR Austin Carr (50 receptions, 9 touchdowns) are going to keep the Buckeye defense on their toes all day. As much as Ohio State likes to rotate its defensive linemen throughout the game, it may be difficult, as Northwestern likes to run a quick tempo, as do the Buckeyes.
Below are three areas I will be focusing upon when this game kicks off at 3:30pm EST on ESPN
- Can the Ohio State passing game evolve? Ever since Tom Herman left as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, combined with the loss of WR Devin Smith to the NFL, both after the 2014 season, Ohio State has not been able, or willing, to develop a deep pass threat. Noah Brown is more of a possession receiver who can be virtually unstoppable in the red zone. Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson are both hybrid players, and reliable as outlet receivers for J.T. Barrett. Will Ohio State start throwing deep, in order to get opposing defenses to quit crowding the line of scrimmage?
- Will Ohio State give Isaiah Prince some help with pass protection? This is not meant as a slam on Prince, as he is a first-year starter, and a true sophomore. Last week against Penn State, Prince was repeatedly beaten by the Nittany Lion pass rush (see below). With native Ohioan and one-time Ohio State recruit Ifeadi Odenigbo coming into town, will the Buckeyes give Prince some help, possibly with a tight end or running back on passing downs?
Ohio State RT Isaiah Prince allowed 14 QB pressures vs Penn State—the highest number we have recorded for an individual single player.— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 26, 2016
- Is the Ohio State offense still very predictable? On short yardage, especially on third down, it is highly likely that Ohio State is going to have J.T. Barrett run the ball. If I am predicting this on a frequent basis, how probable is it that opposing defensive coordinators are doing the same? Ohio State has fallen into a pattern of running the ball on first down – if the play is shut down for minimal yardage, the likelihood of a short yardage pass play is increased on second and third down. This goes back to my first point from up above – throwing deep will open up the entire field, and playbook, if called frequently enough.