No. 6 Ohio State hopes to make playoff case vs Northwestern
Big Ten championship
No. 21 Northwestern (8-4, 8-1, No. 21 CFP) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1, No. 6 CFP) at Indianapolis, Saturday, 8 p.m. EST (Fox).
Line: Ohio State by 14.
Series record: Ohio State leads 61-14-1.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Sure, Saturday’s winner will be crowned the conference champion and establish the league’s postseason pecking order, but Big Ten officials will spend the pregame festivities watching scoreboards to see if the Buckeyes get enough help to claim one of the four precious playoff spots with a win.
Buckeyes’ high-scoring offense vs. Northwestern’s red-zone defense. A matchup of the Big Ten’s highest-scoring team (43.3 points) and one of the league’s stingiest defenses. The advantage could even shift to the Wildcats if they can force the big-play Buckeyes, who score nearly a touchdown per game more than any other conference team, into sustained drives. Northwestern has allowed a league-low 16 red-zone TDs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northwestern: RB Isaiah Browser. The first-year starter played a major factor in the Wildcats’ midseason turnaround. Over the last six games, he had the most carries (159) and second-highest rushing total (734) in FBS as Northwestern went 5-1.
Ohio State: QB Dwayne Haskins. He was the obvious choice as the conference’s offensive player of the year after finishing the regular-season with league-highs in completion percentage (69.0), yards (4,081) and touchdown passes (42).
FACTS & FIGURES
Northwestern has won three straight overall, seven straight in league play and nine straight outside Evanston, Illinois. This will be the Wildcats’ first Big Ten title game appearance. … Ohio State closed out the season with four consecutive wins after being blown out 49-20 at Purdue in its first trip to the state of Indiana this season. … The Wildcats’ defense allowed 18.8 points and 371.1 yards against conference foes. … The Buckeyes average 543.9 yards (second nationally) and scored a series-high 62 points against Michigan last week. … Northwestern tied the single-season school record with eight conference wins. … Ohio State has won 11 games in seven consecutive seasons and coach Urban Meyer is tied with Earle Bruce for No. 4 on the school’s all-time wins list (81), trailing Woody Hayes, John Cooper and Jim Tressel. … Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald was named the Big Ten’s coach of the year earlier this week.