Ohio State wants a blowout against Northwestern but will it happen?


By Jim Naveau - Staff Columnist



Ohio State’s last four football recruiting classes have included 11 players who were 5-star prospects and 60 who were 4-star prospects.

Northwestern’s last four football recruiting classes have had no 5-star players and three 4-stars.

So, Saturday’s Big Ten championship game between OSU (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) and Northwestern (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten) is already decided and they might as well not play it and just send the Buckeyes straight to the Rose Bowl or the College Football Playoff ?

As Lee Corso is famous for saying, not so fast my friend.

If recruiting ratings alone determined a team’s win-loss record, Northwestern wouldn’t even be in Indianapolis on Saturday night. Wisconsin or Iowa would have won the Big Ten West Division, not the Wildcats.

If recruiting ratings were all that mattered, Ohio State wouldn’t have lost by 29 points to Purdue and it wouldn’t have lost by 31 to Iowa last season.

Ohio State would like nothing more than to roll up a big score on Northwestern to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee, just like it did in 2014 when its 59-0 scorched earth win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game clinched a trip to the playoffs.

OSU does have a talent advantage. It has an advantage in team speed. It has the No. 2 offense in the country.

It has the best passing game in the Big Ten and it is going against a Northwestern pass defense that has given up more yards than every Big Ten team except Indiana, Illinois and Purdue. And Northwestern, which has won 15 of its last 16 Big Ten games, had an ugly loss to Akron earlier this season.

So, there are some reasons to believe a blowout is possible. But there are reasons to think it might not happen.

Some baseball players say they hit more home runs when they aren’t trying to hit them than they do when they’re trying to knock the ball out of the park.

It might work the same way in football. It might be harder to dial up a blowout than it is to just have one occur in the natural flow of the game. There probably weren’t many, if any, Ohio State players who had written down “Score 62 points,” as a goal before last week’s game against Michigan.

Also, Northwestern seems to have the ability to make every game close. It hasn’t won a game by more than 14 points this season but it also hasn’t lost a game by more than 14 points.

And who knows how a report on Friday that Urban Meyer might step down as OSU’s coach after the 2019 season could affect the game?

The biggest concern for Ohio State’s often-underachieving defense will be quarterback Clayton Thorson, one of those rare 4-star recruits for Northwestern, and a group of productive receivers. Thorson has thrown for 2,675 yards and 14 touchdowns but also has been intercepted 12 times.

Running back Isaiah Bowser, of Sidney, has rushed for 736 yards and all but two of those yards have come in the last six games.

If Ohio State can control Thorson and Bowser, and the offense takes care of business, a blowout is possible. But even if that happens, it’s no guarantee OSU will get into the College Football Playoff.

The prediction: Ohio State 38, Northwestern 21.

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By Jim Naveau

Staff Columnist

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