Not Your Grandfather's Northwestern

By Jeff Beck on June 10, 2013 at 2:00p
42 Comments
V. Mark

What if I told you a team that just won its first bowl game in over 60 years is the scariest matchup on Ohio State’s 2013 schedule? 

It sounds ridiculous, but I’m completely serious. The Buckeye’s Oct. 5th tilt with Northwestern will be one of the toughest on the Scarlet and Gray’s 2013 slate.

The two teams haven’t played since 2008, Terrelle Pryor’s freshman season. That game wasn’t close, as the Buckeyes served up a pretty cold 45-10 beatdown in Evanston. 

The contest was football therapy for the 11th ranked Buckeyes who suffered a heart-breaking 13-6 defeat at the hands of #3 Penn State in the previous week.

Pryor had a banner day, tossing for 197 yards and 3 TDs. Beanie Wells and Boom Herron were able to tack on three more, making for a pretty terrible outing for Pat Fitzgerald and the rest of Wildcat nation.

But the team Fitzgerald has taking the field in 2013 will look a lot different than that 2008 squad. Just take a look (pro-tip: pay no attention to the wildly fluctuating volumes or whatever Fitzgerald is doing at 0:05)

The Wildcats went 10-3 last season (5-3 in conference) with losses to Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan.

Of those three defeats, only one wasn’t close, a 39-28 loss at the hands of the Nittany Lions. The other two came by one point to the Cornhuskers and by one TD in OT against TTUN.

The team rebounded from the loss against Michigan to finish out the year with three wins including a 34-20 drubbing of Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

Colter-ingKain doing his thing.

2012 was certainly a step-forward for Northwestern and the nucleus of that team is coming back.

The Wildcats will return nearly all of their skill players on offense including All B1G RB Venric Mark (226 carries, 1,366 yards and 12 TDs) as well as an effective two-QB system in Trevor Siemian (1,312 yards and 6 TDs) and dual-threat, Kain Colter (8 TDs passing, 12 TDs rushing). The explosive back-field was only behind Ohio State and Nebraska in scoring offense in 2012.

While not as impressive on paper, the Wildcat defense took huge strides in 2012 as well. The unit’s 29 take-aways was good enough for first in the conference. In addition, the squad posted the B1G’s fifth ranked defense. One spot ahead of your very own Silver Bullets.

The unit takes their cues from senior DE, Tyler Scott who led the team in TFL (12.5), sacks (9) and forced fumbles (3) in 2012. The squad also returns a number of talented players in their secondary including safety, Ibraheim Campbell, CB Nick VanHoose and sophomore Traveon Henry. The group combined for 13 INTs on the year, only one behind the conference leading Buckeyes.

No, this certainly isn’t your grandpa’s Northwestern, and Fitzgerald will be looking to prove that under the lights on Oct. 5th.

The game will mark the conference opener for the Wildcats who should come into the matchup undefeated if all goes as planned against Cal, Syracuse, Western Michigan and Maine.

The contest comes at an inopportune time for Ohio State, who will be fresh off a tough night game in the previous week against Wisconsin (a team Athlon Sports has at #19 nationally and finishing at #2 in the Leaders division.)

Night games are always emotional in the ‘Shoe, so will Braxton and company have enough left in the tank to do it again in an opponent’s house the following week?

Of course this is all speculation, but that’s what the offseason is for. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for the Buckeyes to thrash Northwestern in early October, rendering this piece meaningless.

With that said, I simply don’t see that happening. Fitzgerald is building something special on the banks of Lake Michigan. A win against OSU would be a signature one for Fitzgerald, ultimately ringing in a new era for Wildcat football.

So keep the matchup in Evanston circled on your calendar, because this isn’t your grandpa’s Northwestern.

42 Comments

Comments

osubuck57's picture

This will be the ultimate "trap" game for us coming off Wisky. Should tell us if we're gonna run the table or if we're gonna have 1-2 losses. We win these 2 back to back, not worried about the rest of the schedule, including the last game of season against you know who. Nice write up.

SCOTTC.

OSUs12-OH's picture

This^^^;-)was exactly what I thought of.  If OSU beats both Wiscy and NW well, then I'd say look out to the rest of tB1G.  
NW isn't like they used to be and if it takes all OSU has to beat Wiscy it could be a very difficult game in Evanston the following week.  I've also heard that the fans are buying in more than they used to at NW.  They may pack their stadium if they're unbeaten which they very well could be.

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

Run_Fido_Run's picture

It sets up as a trap game, but possibly mitigating that factor = Urbz. It probably wasn't that unusual for FLA to play back-to-back big night games when Urbz was coaching and he had a great record in big games there.
In 2006, after losing a night game at Auburn, they bounced back in World's Biggest Cocktail Party, beating rival UGA.
In 2008, their upset loss was at home to Ole Miss was early in the season. It was right after playing Tenn, yes, but it was also a 12:30 game that kind of flew under the radar. If anything, it was too low key.
In 2009, FLA won at LSU (8 pm), Ark (3:30), at Miss St (7:30), and v. UGA (3:30) in consecutive weeks.

Buckeyeneer's picture

I don't think its a trap, because we are giving them the respect they deserve. Most people are throwing this out as either the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd hardest game of the season. Trap games are generally against patsies that you overlook.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

RBuck's picture

Totally agree. Northwestern is legit this year. However, I believe we got the edge with our defense.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Earle's picture

NW is a good team.  Everybody knows it. The coaching staff knows it.  You can be sure they will let the players know it.  The game will be under the lights with a very pro-OSU crowd for a road game.  Our guys will be ready.  I don't think it will be that close.

Italics are for emphasis.

cplunk's picture

Northwestern and Cal are the most dangerous games on the schedule, I think. Contrary to popular opinion, I really don't think TSUN is the biggest threat.
I'm really impressed with Fitzgerald. He's done a great job at Northwestern. I watched quite a few of their games and they're a good team. 

old_rasputin's picture

I think that you are correct in that tOSU always plays ttun like there's no tomorrow whereas these other opponents are more mundane and therefore warrant less emotion and intensity.

"We hate to lose, but when we do, rest assured we'll be back, and someone will pay the price." Coach Hayes

OSUs12-OH's picture

Disagree with Cal....stop the run and you beat them.  They'll try to pass but their QB is unproven and OSU's defense will give them fits if all they can do is pass.  I don't expect to see runs like this next year.  The tackling and pursuit of those defensive players isn't OSU style of football and I wouldn't anticipate to see it again.
 

 

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

BuckI_1033's picture

I can see the argument for Cal but lets remember when we played them last year. It was 3rd week of the season and quite frankly we weren't all that good at that point. I think this years team will click much sooner, especially on offense and destroy Cal. Michigan is still our toughest game by far, followed by NW. 

"You'll be proud of our young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the football field." 

cplunk's picture

Cal has a completely different offense than last year. New head coach. Sonny Dykes. His offense is known for being exceptionally high-scoring and heavy passing (last year):
http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/2348/year/2012/lo...
57 points against Texas A&M, 52 against Illinois,, and 44 against Virginia are not to be sneezed at. And he'll have more talent at Cal than he ever did at La Tech.
We should win- we're better. BUT we are breaking in a whole new defensive line and new MLB against a prolific offensive system, in their home stadium. The good thing is the offense is new to them. 
I really think that is either a game we win about 57-3 or a game we lose 56-54.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

52 against Illinois,, and 44 against Virginia are not to be sneezed at. 

 
You should have stopped at A&M. XD Illinois and Virginia were a combined 6-18 last year. Illinois gave up 30 or more points 8 times in 2012. Virginia gave up 42 to Duke, and lost to Maryland.
 
And he'll have more talent at Cal than he ever did at La Tech.
 
 Tim Beckman has more talent at illinois than he ever did at Toledo. They went 2-10 his first year.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

cplunk's picture

Illinois also gave up exactly 52 to another team- us. And Penn State only scored 17 against Virginia.
look, I'm not saying Cal is going to be world beaters. I'm saying it is foolish to discount the, the way many folks seem to be. We struggled with the types of things Dyke's offenses run all year last year. All year- it got better when Boren moved to MLB, but it didn't end. And now we have who at MLB? Anybody sure, right now, who is replacing Boren? That he'll be up to the task? Our best interior guys last year are gone. 
That means new guys, in an early season game, against an offensive type our defense has struggled to contain, on the road. 
Like I said, we should win. It just drives me a little nuts that many people seem to dismiss last year's Cal game as a one-off. There were warning signs heading into that game. There are more warning signs heading into this one.

OSUs12-OH's picture

I'm not discounting... I just don't see an overwhelming turn around by game three of this year for Cal. About all this and that on our unproven defense....did everyone watch the spring game? Diesel Washington, Noah Spence, Michael Bennett and Tommy Schutt will be just fine. 4-5 sacks against our starting oline (spring game or not) will be just fine. Not to mention the LBs will be much better too. Have faith ladies and gents;-)

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

RedQueenRace's picture

Being that they are young and aggressive I see the DL being very vulnerable to screens and draws.  I think there are going to be growing pains in that area.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Illinois also gave up exactly 52 to another team- us. And Penn State only scored 17 against Virginia.

Illinois faced the backups for most of the 4th. And Penn State was terrible at the beginning of the season.

 look, I'm not saying Cal is going to be world beaters. I'm saying it is foolish to discount the, the way many folks seem to be. We struggled with the types of things Dyke's offenses run all year last year. All year- it got better when Boren moved to MLB, but it didn't end. And now we have who at MLB? Anybody sure, right now, who is replacing Boren? That he'll be up to the task? Our best interior guys last year are gone.

I agree that it's foolish to overlook Cal. I just thought saying "Look at what he did against Illinois and Virginia" was bad for your argument.
Ohio State is young-ish on D, but Cal is also installing a new offense. And while Ohio State has lost a lot on D, key pieces like Shazier, Grant, and Roby are better than they were at the beginning of 2012.
Another thing some forget is Ohio State didn't have Hyde or Bennett against Cal. That makes a huge difference.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

OSUs12-OH's picture

Cal>TTUN....no doubter. Not seeing your point on this one besides seeing TTUN as a bigger opponent but not a bigger threat. NW, TTUN and Wiscy are way more of a threat than Cal. That I can pretty much guarantee.

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

builderofcoalitions's picture

I haven't seen the Buckeyes in-person for a long time, but I will be in Evanston in October for this one. I'm stoked that it could be the game of the year (or at least #2 to TSUN). That said, Ohio State has never lost when I was in the same stadium.

Because we couldn't go for three.

ArTbkward's picture

I have a wedding the night of this game.  <sigh>

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...
(Also, I'm not a dude)

Breakawayspeed's picture

She won't re-set the date?   Don't do it ,man!  :>)

ATXbucknut's picture

Good piece.  I was reading on one of the national sites over the weekend just how prolific the NW offense was last year and how they return just about everybody on that side.
That said, the D will be the difference IMO. Our offense will control the ball and the clock (at worst) or score at will (at best).  The worst case scenario, I see us getting into a basketball game like we did last year at Indiana but coming out on top.
FYI, the Ohio State game will also be Northwestern's homecoming.

Poison nuts's picture

Great article & spot on IMO. Not only will OSU be coming off a big & emotional night game, but generally speaking, I think Northwestern's offense could spell trouble for OSU's defense (or any defense really). Had they played last year before OSU got their sh!t together on defense, this would have been a very scary game. The fact that most of their guys are coming back & Pat Fitzgerald is a great coach makes for this one being possibly the biggest test of the year for the Buckeyes.

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

droessl's picture

This might be oversimplifying things, but I'd be a lot more nervous if we were still coached by Tressel and his staff. After a (hopefully not) tough game against Wisconsin, the old regime might not hype the team up/play up-tempo enough in this type of situation.
The way Urban embraces night games makes it less worrisome for me. 

CC's picture

I wouldn't.  I would feel totally confident that we were going to win by a comfortable 3-6 points...

Hovenaut's picture

I can't believe Pat Fitzgerald hasn't been lured (or at least tempted) away from NU yet. I'm sure he has this game highlighted on their schedule, I'm expecting a tough game.

Dr. House's picture

the guy always seems like he is as loyal as they come. plus he's coaching his alma mater as his first head coaching gig. how many coaches can say that. 
sidebar i love the buckeyes but if there is one team that i can say is number 2 it would be northwestern. they are truly a likable team. 

AndyVance's picture

Right on both points, House. Fitz isn't going anywhere any time soon - he's right where he wants to be, and if he keeps winning at the rate he is now, or better, he'll make more money and be guaranteed a job as long as he wants one.
And yes, "Nerdwestern" is one of the more likable schools and teams in the conference. Hard to hate those plucky brainiacs for some reason.

Poison nuts's picture

I agree on Fitzgerald. He seems like the kind of guy who is glad to be coaching where he played & wouldn't leave for too many other jobs or really any other jobs at all.

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

AndyVance's picture

I like to think Urban is now feeling that same sort of warm, fuzzy "forever" kind of feeling...

Poison nuts's picture

That would be nice...fingers crossed, praying, rain dances, etc...

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Excellent piece, Jeff. Not to nitpick, but NW's game against PSU last year was actually pretty close in terms of the flow of the game, if not on the final scorebaord.
NW was up 28-17 going into the 4Q. PSU went on a long TD drive and coverted the 2 pt coversion to make it 28-25. That drive probably wore out the NW defense a bit. They went three-and-out, punted immediately back to PSU and the Lions went on another long drive, converted one of their infamous 4th D conversions in the process, which was murder on the tiring NW D.
And that was that . . .

AndyVance's picture

This piece says what a lot of us have been thinking: that Northwestern is the toughest card in the deck this season. The guys will be hungry for Cal, and should be well aware of the pitfalls of flying across the country and will hopefully avoid being dazzled by the scenery.
Likewise, the team will be on fire to hand TTUN another L in keeping with recently-established tradition. Here's hoping that the team is aware that when you're undefeated, every single game is a potential trap, and not get caught asleep at the switch.

Stinson's picture

Good article. Nice work.

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

JYBUCKEYE's picture

That is hilarious!!!

Maestro's picture

My first game in The Shoe was a NW game back in 2001.  Good memories.  Jonathan Wells to the house.

vacuuming sucks

trasch_man's picture

Hard to believe that a game which isn't the last one of the regular season would be considered the toughest game. I understand that Ohio State struggled with spread offenses last year and Northwestern has Colter and Mark but Ohio State should be able to score more points on Northwestern's defense than Northwestern can score on OSU's. Just my opinion but Ohio State should win any and every battle against a spread offense in B1G play if only because they can score more points.

BME_Buckeye's picture

First, let me say that I'm glad to see you finally made an 11W account and that I've taken notice of it. Welcome Traschman! ;)
I agree we should win most of our games base on offense alone but we really struggle against teams that run the spread. Factor in Northwestern speed and this game has disaster written all over it. This was the one game I picked us to lose this year and I wouldn't be shocked if we did if our defense doesn't bring it. I recommend you check out this this article from the bleacher report about will Ohio State struggling against the spread
 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.

 

trasch_man's picture

I don't think Northwestern has the balance on offense that will give Ohio State the same fits they had last year against the spread. Mark and Colter are a helluva duo but after those two there isn't that much high-level talent on the offensive side of the ball. They're not going to be able to stop them but they should be able to limit them by using their speed on the edges and forcing the play back inside.

RBuck's picture

I can't help but like NW's uni's in the first pic. I think they're pretty badass.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Northwestern is a much improved solid team.  That game will be one focus on for sure.  We don't want to underestimate them like we did a few years back and got beat.  I still think the hardest games for us will be TTUN, Wisconsin and Penn ST.  Those teams are just so much more physical along the front lines.  Not to say that Northwestern is not a good team - they are, but I just think the odds of us getting beat are higher against the other three teams.  Overall, let's hope that the Bucks rise to all of the occasions and run the table again!
Go Bucks!!

harleymanjax's picture

While I agree NW is much improved, I don't see them as a threat yet. Who have they beaten? Miss St is horrible! They are still a notch below Wisky until they actually beat a good team!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

nickma71's picture

What if I told you a team that just won its first bowl game in over 60 years is the scariest matchup on Ohio State’s 2013 schedule? 

I would say the schedule is soft. History does matter.