Friday, October 28, 2016

Buckeyes Preview 10.28.16: Northwestern @ Ohio State

By Jason Disantis, @JasonInCLE

The Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) haven't been playing good football the past couple weeks and it caught up to them last Saturday at Penn State.  The Buckeyes dropped to #6 in the nation after losing to the Nittany Lions 24-21.  This was the first time in five seasons under coach Urban Meyer that Ohio State lost a Big Ten regular season road game.  Ohio State will come back home after two tough road night games and look to get their offense back on track this Saturday against the Northwestern Wildcats (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten).

The biggest shock from the loss to Penn State was the lack of touches for Ohio States most dynamic playmaker H-back Curtis Samuel.  Samuel caught 8 passes for lackluster 68 yards.  More surprisingly Samuel only had two carries despite taking one of them 74 yards for a touchdown.

Ohio State's offense has slowed down of late.  After averaging 57 points per game for the first four games of the season the Buckeyes are averaging just 29.7 points over the past three and allowed 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of last weeks loss to Penn State.    

What's the cause of the decline in production?

Play calling has become questionable as stated before.  When you're best offensive weapon takes a hand-off 74 yards to the house and only has two carries on the day that's a problem.  Add to that J.T. Barrett's inability to complete passes downfield and you have a recipe for an upset.

While acknowledging their poor play, coach Urban Meyer understands that Ohio State still controls its destiny.

"Every goal is still alive," Meyer said.  "We're not a great team right now."

Meyer knows his team must move on and focus on an improved Northwestern team.

"That is as improved a team as I've ever seen from beginning to now," Meyer said about Northwestern.  "They've had three big wins with two on the road.  Their defense is outstanding."

After splitting their first two, the Wildcats have won three in a row including wins on the road against Big Ten foes Iowa and Michigan State.  

If Northwestern is going to come in to Columbus and pull off the upset they're going to try and do it on the arm of sophomore quarterback Clayton Thorson.  Thorson has 1686 passing yards on the year and has thrown 14 touchdowns, 9 of which have gone to senior receiver Austin Carr. Carr has caught at least one touchdown in every game this season.

Ohio State had to do some soul-searching after last weeks loss to Penn State.  The good news is their Big Ten and National Championship hopes are still alive and in their hands.  The bad news is exactly what Meyer said, they're not a great team right now.

With #7 Nebraska waiting in the wings the Buckeyes will have a tough task of staying focused on the opponent in front of them and not get caught looking ahead.  Most importantly Ohio State needs to focus on being better in all facets of the game regardless of the opponent.  This team has the talent to run the table the rest of the way but it will depend on how these young Buckeyes can handle their first real taste of adversity.  If the Buckeyes can find the chemistry that made them so dynamic in the beginning of the year they will put themselves back on track to a Big Ten championship and the college football playoff.

What:  Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Northwestern Wildcats
When:  Saturday October 29, 2016 at 3:30 ET
Where:  Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Watch:  ESPN
Line:  OSU -28, O/U 53

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