The Ohio State Buckeyes are well on their way to being playoff contenders with their No. 4 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll and undefeated status through six games this season, but that’s no reason for them to lose focus with a strange Friday night matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois.
The Wildcats (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten) don’t have quite enough going for them to present a straight-up challenge for the Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0), but a little trap-game magic could see them pull off an upset worthy of the history books. Crazier things have happened this season, as even just this week Georgia — last week’s No. 3 ranked team — fell in overtime to South Carolina.
Let’s take a closer look at the college football matchup.
When and Where: Ohio State at Northwestern
- Location: Ryan Field (Evanston, Ill.)
- Date: 10/18/19 (Friday)
- Time: 7:30 p.m. CT
- Coverage: Fox Sports 1
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Ohio State Outlook
Ryan Day’s first season in charge has shaped up to be everything doubters thought the program might lose without Urban Meyer. Justin Fields threw his first interception of the season last week against a solid Michigan State defense, but he has been otherwise putting up Heisman-candidate numbers, going 98-for-141 passing with 1,298 yards, 18 touchdowns and an additional 283 yards on his feet.
Whatever he doesn’t get done for the Buckeyes on offense, J.K. Dobbins does as the nation’s rushing leader with 826 yards through the first six games of his junior season. He is averaging 7.1 yards per carry and has six touchdowns, threatening to break his career bests in both yardage (1,403) and touchdowns (10). The possibilities are endless with the Buckeyes churning out no fewer than 34 points in every win this season. They have scored 99 combined points in their only two road games as well.
The high praise also extends to Ohio State’s defense, which gave up 21 points in its season opener against Florida Atlanta then allow just 32 combined over their next five. The No. 25 Spartans managed just 10 points, while Nebraska (seven) and Indiana (10) were also held to low totals against the Big Ten’s powerhouse program.
Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats got off to a 1-3 start in 2018 before rallying to win eight of their last 10 games, including a Holiday Bowl victory over Utah. There hasn’t been much transference from last season, though, as the poor start has lingered even longer in 2019.
Northwestern hasn’t played any cupcakes with a win over UNLV and losses to Stanford, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska, but the road gets harder before it gets easier. Welcoming the Buckeyes to town feels like one week too early for the Wildcats to swing back into some form of relevance. It is more likely to happen the following week in a home game against a ranked Iowa team, and even more likely the week after that in a trip to take on Indiana.
Only after that are some of the softer teams, such as Illinois and UMass, waiting to pad the Wildcats’ record, and that’s assuming they can figure out their offense. Quarterbacks Aidan Smith and Hunter Johnson each have four interceptions to just one touchdown pass each, while Drake Anderson’s 366 rushing yards are more than either passer has generated through the air. There is also the matter of the offensive line, which has allowed 12 sacks this year.
Betting Odds & Trends
- Ohio State (-28) vs. Northwestern
- Over/Under: 49.5
*All odds are courtesy of Odds Shark
Ohio State Trends
- 10-0 SU in their last 10 games
- 5-1 ATS in last 6 games
- Total has gone OVER in 5 of last 7 games played in October
- Total has gone UNDER in 4 of last 5 games
- 1-4 SU in their last 5 games
- 11-3 ATS in last 14 games played in October
Head to Head
- Ohio State has won 9 of last 10 series games
- Ohio State is 6-3-1 ATS in last 10 series games
- Total has gone OVER in six of last 10 series games
Ohio State is moving too fast for a confidence-deprived Northwestern squad to handle, even in the friendly confines. Even if history told of a more even series, the modern renditions of each program are separate levels of existence. One side will have to punch and kick its way to bowl eligibility down the stretch, the other will be looking to reach the College Football Playoffs.
Pick: Ohio State will win by a long shot, and you should bet no differently. Take the Buckeyes to cover the spread in the process after putting up 48 points against the Cornhuskers in their last league road game.