What some called a trap game was no longer a game by halftime.
Ohio State used its signature second-quarter blitz to go up 31-3 at the half and ran away with it from there, winning 52-3. As the local team wades into the second half of the season and playoff contenders have begun dropping with unlikely upsets, the Buckeyes' result against a Big Ten West opponent was more than satisfying.
As Pat Fitzgerald noted, the Bucks did not do anything special to beat down the Wildcats, relying on a suffocating defense, an unstoppable ground game, and utilized its specialists to keep Northwestern out of striking distance.
BIA has Turned it Up
In seven games this season, Ohio State has allowed just three passing touchdowns.
Last year, the Bucks had given up three passing touchdowns in the first three games.
The secondary, thanks in large part to defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, the new defensive scheme of Greg Mattison, and the performances of Arnette and Okudah, has reemerged as one of the best in America. On Friday night, this season-long trend continued as the Buckeyes allowed just 42 passing yards on 6/21 passing.
It was the defense's best performance of the season.
In three of the past four games, Ohio State has allowed less than 70 passing yards.
Despite having two potential first-round picks, it was two unlikely players that stole the limelight against the Wildcats. Sophomore Sevyn Banks and junior Amir Riep each recorded interceptions in the blowout. It was Banks' first career interception and Riep's second. Additionally, K'Vaughan Pope broke up one pass and Shaun Wade broke up two.
As the Bucks play host to run-heavy Wisconsin this upcoming Saturday, it should not come as a surprise to see another suffocating secondary performance.
Running Game is Still Dominant
It should not come as much of a surprise to see J.K. Dobbins as the second-best rusher in the Big Ten this year. The junior tailback has 947 rushing yards this season, just ten yards behind conference-leader Jonathan Taylor.
What may come as a surprise, however, is to see Master Teague as the conference's fifth-leading rusher. With 512 yards on the ground, Teague has proved himself to be more than capable as Dobbins' backup.
Continuing, the Bucks possess two of the five most efficient runners in the Big Ten, as both Dobbins and Teague are averaging at least seven yards per carry.
Overall, Ohio State possesses the third-best ground game in the nation despite running the ball nearly six times less per game than the offenses ahead of them. The defenses they have faced have not been walks-in-the-park either, however, as the Buckeyes have played three of the top-50 rushing defenses in the nation this year and have outgained their opponent's average rush yards allowed in each contest this year.
Come Saturday, an unstoppable force will meet an immovable object, as the Badgers boast the best running defense in the nation.
Special Teams Keep the Game in Check
An ode as old as time goes: "Special teams win games!". Now, for the most part, this cliché is simply referring to dumb penalties and the classic #CollegeKicker moments.
Against Northwestern, special teams did not win the game, but they certainly kept the Wildcats at bay. Placekicker Blake Huabeil's ridiculous 55-yard field goal is tied for the second-longest in school history and Drue Chrisman's five punts helped give Northwestern a long field on nearly every possession.
By scoring on eight of their fourteen possessions, Chrisman was called into action five times (the clock ran out on Ohio State's final possession). In his five punts, he pinned the Wildcats inside their own 20 three times (including one at the one-yard line) and was over 50-yards on three of his punts. His insane kicks, combined with the Buckeyes' coverage, helped produce this insane statistic:
That 6-yard punt return by Northwestern surpassed the total punt return yards (4) surrendered by Ohio State through six games.— Joe Dempsey (@joedempsey44) October 19, 2019
Chrisman's five punts averaged 47.4 yards, effectively flipping the field each possession. For comparison's sake, Northwestern's punter kicked the ball eight times for an average of 27.8 yards.
While we would all prefer Chrisman to stay on the sideline all game, it is more than comforting to know that he, along with Haubeil, are able to flip the field and put the Buckeyes in the driver's seat whenever necessary. With Wisconsin coming to town, forcing the Badgers to run 80-yards to the end zone on each drive will certainly be an advantage for Ohio State.