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Northwestern Wildcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes: Previews, Predictions and Prognostications

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J.T. Barrett, Ohio STate Buckeyes

When: Sat. Oct. 29, 2016; 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Columbus, Ohio; Ohio Stadium (104,944)
TV: ESPN
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads leads 60-14-1
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 40-30 (2013)
Line: Ohio State (-27)

There is still a bit of shock and awe over what happened Saturday night in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions stopped the seemingly unstoppable Buckeye machine. They were not a perfect monolith. They could bleed.

As Grant Haley returned the blocked field goal into the end zone to an uproarious Penn State crowd, Ohio State was left wondering what just happened. That is quite a way to lose a game.

The Buckeyes showed plenty of signs of weakness in the loss to Penn State. J.T. Barrett was solid, completing 28 of 43 passes for 245 yards. But the Buckeyes could not get their ground game going and gave up six sacks. Penn State’s defensive line dominated Ohio State’s offensive line — most notably in the second half.

That is not typical Buckeyes football.

It was still a game Ohio State should have won and put itself in position to win. But the team did not win. The team did not do the things it would need to win a big game against a young and physical front four.

Penn State found a way to win.

That’s what the Wildcats have done for the last three games. After their slow start to the season, the ‘Cats have suddenly emerged as something of an offensive juggernaut. Northwestern, amazingly, has the leading rusher and receiver in the conference. That is both a sign of how reliant they are on their specific stars, and how dangerous this team has become.

Northwestern does not have the talent all around that Ohio State does. The Wildcats are, as they always seem to be, heavy underdogs.

These two teams’ momentum though could not be going in opposite directions right now. Or perhaps this will be the game where narratives get reset.

1 Burning Question: Can Ohio State’s offensive line win in the trenches?

Against Penn State, Ohio State struggled to run the ball. The Buckeyes had 160 rushing yards on 40 carries Saturday and failed to establish a consistent runner. The Buckeyes’ leading rusher was Mike Weber with 71 yards on 21 carries — a 3.4 yards per carry.

That is not what Ohio State has done all year, and not the gold standard that has been set under Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes average 281.6 yards per game and have gotten 97.6 yards per game from Weber.

Undoubtedly though, the Buckeyes have relied more heavily on J.T. Barrett throughout the year. That part is not going to change, especially against Northwestern’s banged up secondary.

But Ohio State struggled against Penn State’s defensive line. The Buckeyes gave up six sacks to the Nittany Lions. And now they face the Big Ten’s leading sacker in Ifeadi Odenigbo (8.0 sacks) along with Anthony Walker seemingly rounding into form.

Ohio State’s offensive line has largely been good — the team ranks third in adjusted line yards according to Football Outsiders (adjusted line yards is a measure of how often running backs get past the offensive linemen, essentially). But the Buckeyes give up a lot of sacks, ranking 48th in the country in adjusted sack rate.

Allowing pressure to get to Barrett is this team’s weakness. The Buckeyes need to protect their heart and soul, and hold off this resurgent Wildcats pass rush to hold firm to dominance in this game.

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2 Key Stats

— 243.3: That is the yards per game Clayton Thorson has thrown for in the last three games. Not the most impressive stats — although his 63.9 percent completion percentage and 9-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is. Considering Thorson’s struggles in the first two seasons of his career, this consistency throwing the ball is a huge plus for Northwestern. It’s a big reason Northwestern’s offense is suddenly revived.

— 121.0: The number of rushing yards per game Ohio State has given up this season. The Buckeyes have been stout against the run this year, and that will become even more important against Justin Jackson and Northwestern who seem to be on the upswing in offensive production.

3 Key Players

–Marcus McShephard, Northwestern CB/WR: This summer Northwestern converted Marcus McShephard from a cornerback to a wide receiver. The Wildcats felt they had depth on that end. With all the injuries at cornerback, Northwestern had to move McShephard back to cornerback. He recorded seven tackles against Indiana. The Hoosiers were targeting him. He will not be in a ton, but Northwestern needs help with the secondary and McShephard has to step up. Or else …

–Jerome Baker, LB Ohio State: Jerome Baker has filled in admirably due to injury, and has been a do-everything linebacker for the Buckeyes. The stats support that — 43 tackles, six for a loss, 1.5 sacks and a pick. Baker will have to be an anchor again as Ohio State takes on Justin Jackson and Northwestern. The Wildcats are going to run the ball a lot, and Jackson figures be the flag-bearer. Baker has to make a living in the backfield and help make Northwestern’s offense uncomfortable.

–Hunter Niswander, P Northwestern: Ohio State knows how important special teams are after last week’s loss. The Wildcats have a solid punter in Hunter Niswander and for them to hang around this game, they have to win field position and make the Buckeyes go down a long field. Last week, Niswander struggled though. He averages 43.1 yards per punt this year, but against the Hoosiers last week, he posted 39.6 yards per punt on eight punts. He needs to be better than 40 and pin Ohio State deep.

4 Staff Predictions

Andy: Ohio State 31-17
Dave: Ohio State 38-17
Phil H.: Ohio State 34-17
Philip R-R.: Ohio State 34-24
Zach: Ohio State 38-14

Philip Rossman-Reich is a Northwestern alumnus and former contributor Lake The Posts. He also writes for Orlando Magic Daily and The Step Back.

Buckeyes Football

Greg Schiano out at Ohio State, Michigan’s Mattison reportedly in

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In terms of rivalries, there is no more intense in the Big Ten than Michigan an Ohio State. It’s one that lives on in the fans, players and coaches for 365 days a year.

On Jan. 7, 2019 things got a whole lot more interesting for the next 365 days that’s for sure.

First, news broke that defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will not be back with the Buckeyes under new head coach Ryan Day. Many believed this past season wasn’t up to par for the Buckeyes and Schiano seemed likely to take the fall for that.

OSU finished this season ranked 72nd in total defense after back-to-back seasons in the top 10 of that category nationwide. The Buckeyes gave up over 400 yards of total offense this year as well.

So, who will replace Schiano? In a really interesting twist, multiple reports have come out stating that Day has his replacement ready — in the form of Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison.

According to Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket, Mattison’s contact with Michigan was about to be up and that Harbaugh chose not to renew his deal.

Thus, he is a free agent and Day has chosen to scoop him up.

Mattison is very familiar with this rivalry, having served as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke (2011-2014) and then accepting just the defensive line coaching position on Jim Harbaugh’s staff.

His defenses were very consistent in his four seasons as defensive coordinator. Michigan was never worse than 31st in the country in total defense and peaked at No. 6 in his final season at the helm of the Wolverines defense.

Coaches plying their trade on both sides of the rivalry is nothing new, but it is a rarity overall.

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Buckeyes Football

BREAKING: Urban Meyer announces retirement

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Last week, FootballScoop.com reported that Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer would be stepping down by the end of the 2019 season and likely by the end of this season.

They also reported that Ryan Day would take over as the new head coach once that happened. 

After a weekend in which the rest of the media attempted to discredit the report, it is now exactly what is happening. 

Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com broke the news early this morning.  In the report, Lesmerises notes that Meyer is being forced to step down due to complications from a cyst on his brain. 

The Rose Bowl game against Pac-12 champion Washington will be the final game he will coach at Ohio State. 

Additionally, Ryan Day, who replaced Meyer as interim head coach while he was serving a three-game suspension to start the year will take over as the full-time head coach starting next season. 

More information will be made available at a news conference scheduled for 2pm ET. 

Meyer has had one of the most successful tenures as a head coach in Buckeyes history. He’ll retire having never lost to Michigan (7-0), won three Big Ten championships and with an 82-9 overall record at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray. 

OSU athletic director Gene Smith is the one who decided Day would get the job on a permanent basis, seeing what the Buckeyes did under his leadership in that three-game stint earlier this year and hoping to ride the wave of young coaches making big splashes. 

His rise up the coaching ranks comes just as the Buckeyes are putting up some of the most dynamic numbers in the pass game that college football has ever seen. 

Star quarterback Dwayne Haskins could potentially top the 5,000-yard and 50 touchdown marks in the upcoming Rose Bowl game. 

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Buckeyes Football

Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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