The Buckeyes are primed and ready to take on the Northwestern Wildcats on the national stage. College Gameday will be there, the Buckeye's 17-0 streak will be there, I'll be there...will you? To get you ready for the big game we've teed up Mike "The Beard" Young, Jeremy "Don't Call Me Birmingham" Birmingham and Joe "The Beast" Beale.
Let's get it on.
Pittsburgh Brown is going to start in place of the injured Christian Bryant, but who steps in to fill Bryant’s role as leader of the defense?
Mike: We all had a hearty laugh at the sheer number of captains named earlier this season. In Bryant's absence, there are still two captains remaining on the defensive side, including fellow safety and fifth-year senior C.J. Barnett. Bradley Roby might have been a captain if not for his off-season arrest, so there's plenty of leadership in the defensive backfield.
Jeremy: My hope is that it's Bradley Roby. With the world kind of coming down on him for substandard play, Roby is in a position to turn things around for himself and right the ship for the defense. We know he's got personality, but whether or not he can become a positive force in the lockerroom and on the field has yet to be seen.
Joe: The obvious candidate is Ryan Shazier, and I'm sure he will do his share of leading. But I'm looking to see more from C.J. Barnett and Bradley Roby. Roby I believe was slated to be one of the guys who represented the team at the B1G media days, but was scratched after his brush with law enforcement. This would be a good time for him to step up his leadership game.
Out for the past three games due to injury, the Wildcats return RB Venric Mark (1,366 yards and 12 TDs last season). What is his end-of-game stat line?
Mike: With the dual-threat abilities of Kain Colter, I expect the running game to open a little bit more for the Northwestern backs. They're not as predictable as Wisconsin. Still, the Buckeyes are going to win most battles up front and Mark's coming off a leg injury. I don't see him being 100% effective, so, I'll give him about 12 carries for 50 yards.
Jeremy: I'm a huge fan of Mark, I think he's a difference maker and Ohio State will have to adjust their defense to account for him. He's not likely to be 100-percent and if the weather is as rough as it is supposed to be it could neutralize his effectiveness as well. I think he ends up around 75-100 total yards of offense and he'll find the endzone once.
Joe: I look for a lot of catches but not a lot of rushing yards. I'm going to say 14 carries for 45 yards and 8 receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown.
Last week, Braxton threw for 4 TDs against a defense that hadn’t given up a TD pass all season. How many does he have against the Wildcats?
Mike: I don't know anything about Maine's offensive scheme, but I do know they threw for almost 300 yards & 2 TDs against the Wildcats. One game is usually the microcosm of any team's season so I'll go with 4 TDs again.
Jeremy: Like Venric Mark's production could be limited by Mother Nature's wicked ways, so too could Braxton's. With rain and wind gusts up to 25-30 mph, Miller will need to be good in the short and intermediate passing game since the long ball - Miller's bread and butter - may be unavailable. Ohio State will move the ball regardless, and Braxton should throw three touchdowns.
Joe: I'm saying 3. Northwestern probably will not be as stout against the run as Wisconsin was, so I predict more scoring on the ground.
Jordan Hall carried the ball only once against the Badgers. Will Urban Meyer and Tom Herman get him more involved in the gameplan, or will Hyde once again shoulder most of the load?
Mike: Hyde will definitely get the majority of the carries. I expect them to work the clock while sitting on a lead and letting Hyde run downhill. I expect Hall to get some targets in the passing game in addition to a few more carries.
Jeremy: With the running game looking more and more like a "must have" this weekend, I'd expect to see a heavy dose of Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson toting the rock. Hyde is the team's starting tailback, but I think it's obvious the entire coaching staff knows they "messed up" by not giving Jordan Hall a better opportunity against Wisconsin. They will atone for that.
Joe: Yes, I think Hall will see more action. There will be more opportunities because OSU will have more possessions. This should be a game where both teams run a lot of plays.
The secondary looked suspect last week then lost one of their leaders. Do they still have a chance to shore up their issues this Saturday against a pass-happy Wildcats offense?
Mike: I'm more confident in Ohio State's ability to get to whichever quarterback this week -- bringing him down is a different issue -- but I expect Northwestern to pick up yardage in short chunks through the air. They don't have Abbrederis but they do a good job of exploiting mismatches, like Cal, but obviously not at the same tempo.
Jeremy: I am willing to give the secondary - as a whole - a pass for last weekend. Bradley Roby seemed to be told "You're on your own, the rest of the team will stop everyone else," and although he was lit up like a Christmas tree, the rest of the defense - including the secondary - did its job admirably. If Roby gets his head on straight, I think the secondary will survive the loss of Christian Bryant by rotating Pittsburgh Brown, Tyvis Powell and freshman Vonn Bell, but Northwestern's offense is a baptism by fire for each of them.
Joe: The real problem on Saturday was how much time Wisconsin had to throw the ball. Stave was rarely pressured, and thus he was able to calmly pick out his targets. A bit more pressure from the four-man rush will make the opposing QB less accurate and take the pressure off the secondary.
Meyer said he doesn’t care about style points. Do you believe him? Will he look to ratchet up the WOW on Gameday’s national stage?
Mike: There were plenty of hot takes on Meyer's strategy, Saturday. It did feel a little tense at the end like a few games last year, and I won't deny they were more conservative than I would've liked. Meyer even admitted they could've taken a few more shots downfield in the 2nd half. Still, that first half was impressive and -- once again -- proved they can stretch the field vertically. Win every game and I won't complain much.
Jeremy: Simple answer, yes. I think he's telling the truth, and if you look at the results of the last two years you should too. The Buckeyes have one goal, and that's to win all their football games. Last Saturday's game against Wisconsin was a perfect example of Ohio State shutting down and playing Tresselball to make sure they didn't lose the game through a stupid turnover. This weekend Ohio State will score what they need and will do whatever it takes to keep a depleted and injury-riddled defense off the field.
Joe: I only partially believe him. I'm sure he would prefer to not have to address the subject, but he's enough of a realist to know that it's necessary to lobby for your team to get in the championship game (see 2006) and so he understands that putting up a high score is part of that lobbying effort.
Buckeye fans invaded Berkeley. Do you expect the same this weekend in Evanston? Many said the split was 50-50 at Cal. What is the split at Ryan Field?
Mike: We circled this game months ago and pretty much expected Northwestern to come into this game undefeated. The typical split in Evanston is about 80-20 Ohio State, but, considering the anticipated stakes, I bet a few more Wildcat fans held on to their tickets. I imagine the large OSU alumni base in Chicago planned their trip out months ago, though. So, it's not like they're going to be underrepresented. 60-40 in favor of Northwestern? I'm feeling generous
Jeremy: I know I ain't good at math, but there's no way in heck Cal was a 50-50 split, Ohio State took over that stadium, but I digress. Northwestern fans will be more abundant than usual because, you know, they don't suck to high heaven anymore, but Buckeye fans will still account for at least half of the stadium.
Joe: They will be out in force, you can be sure of that. It might not be 50-50 due to the Wildcats' success the past couple years, but I think there's a chance it might be 60-40.
It looks like rain could be in the forecast. Does this help or hurt the Buckeyes? Why?
Mike: Downhill, power attack is still a tenant of Buckeye football. They'll have no problem with the rain. Well, on offense. Over-aggressiveness and over-pursuit on defense -- which does tend to happen to this group -- could be an issue.
Jeremy: The more I think about this, the more I think weather issues hurt Ohio State. The Buckeyes, despite the longstanding tradition of being a grind it out offense, are no longer that team. They need good turf for cutting, dry footballs for constant shotgun snapping (an issue suddenly for Corey Linsley) and they need solid footing for a defensive unit prone to mistakes. Ohio State should beat Northwestern in rain, shine, sleet or snow, but a dry track would help the Buckeyes more than a nasty night of Lake Michigan's finest.
Joe: That depends on how hard the rain is. A gentle shower will probably not affect the game much other than making it that much tougher to play defense. But a hard rain with a good stiff wind will have a big impact, lowering the scores and giving Northwestern more of a chance.
What is your final score prediction?
Mike: 34-24, Ohio State
Jeremy: I see Ohio State winning in a similar fashion to last Saturday night. The Buckeyes and 'Cats trade punches early, Ohio State will take a 31-17 lead into the fourth quarter and win a nail-biter 31-27.
Joe: The score will be 42-21, Ohio State.
Last week, 11W’s Chris and a few other 11-dubbers were told to SIT DOWN by other OSU fans in their section. How much do you hate this? Explain to these fans why this is not acceptable.
Mike: I think Chris and the other 11W guys handled it pretty well. It all worked out for the best, so there's no reason to complain. Those clowns telling them to sit down should just shut the hell up.
Jeremy: As one of those fans who was asked to sit down no less than two minutes into the first quarter, I feel expertly qualified to discuss how much I hate this. I hate this a lot. There, I said it. I paid $270 for my ticket to the Ohio State game on Saturday, $4.50 per minute of game time. If I choose to stand for my money (which I wanted to do, despite aching feet and a posture made a bit wobbly by copious amounts of Yeungling from the E2B tailgate prior to kick-off), then you can bet your sweet bippy I'm going to stand whenever I deem the circumstances require it. The gentleman who asked me to sit down was no older than I (mid-30s) so this isn't an age issue, it's an "I suck" issue. There is such an incredible impact made on the game when the crowd is raucous, people have to understand this by now, right?
Don't even get me started on the Buckeye fans leaving with four minutes left in the game...
Joe: I remember being yelled at once by a bunch of “fans” when I (and everyone in our group) insisted on standing the entire game. And they didn't just yell; they pelted us with empty soda cans and rolled up hot dog wrappers. But I wasn't too surprised at their behavior. You see, this game was at Michigan, and they were fans of the boys in blue. I rest my case.