After both teams had this past weekend off, Ohio State and Northwestern are set for a Friday night clash in Evanston, Ill.
Here are six things to know about the Wildcats:
1. They have major problems on offense so far this season.
The defending Big Ten West champs are just 1-4 on the season (they have already had both bye weeks) and a struggling offense is a big reason why.
“Obviously we have to eliminate our mistakes if we want to find a way to win,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said after a 13-10 loss at Nebraska on Nov. 5. “Again, very disappointing loss.”
The Wildcats are 128th (out of 130 teams) nationally in scoring at 14.4 points per game and 125th in total offense (292.8 yards per game).
(To put that in perspective further, they have 72 points — a total Ohio State reached by halftime in its second game of the season.)
They have the worst passing game in the country in terms of efficiency and rank 121st in the red zone and tied for 111th on third downs.
2. The Northwestern defense is much better.
The Wildcats rank 30th in the nation in scoring defense (19.8 points per game) and 26th in total defense (318.8 yards per game), though they have been better against the pass (14th) than the run (53rd).
They rank 44th in pass efficiency defense but below average in tackles for loss (82nd) and have struggled in terms of turnovers, rankings just 115th in margin (minus-0.8).
Advanced stats back up the traditional numbers on both sides of the ball: Heading into this past weekend, Northwestern ranked 125th in the country in offensive SP+ and No. 8 on defense.
3. A pair of Miami Valley natives are among the 15 Ohioans on the roster.
After a fantastic freshman season, Sidney’s Isaiah Bowser has missed two games because of injury and run for 103 yards on 29 carries.
(In his place, redshirt freshman Drake Anderson has run for 366 yards and three touchdowns.)
Charlie Kuhbander, a junior kicker from Springboro, leads the Wildcats in scoring with 24 points. He has made 6 of 8 field goals with a long of 44.
The coaching staff also has a local connection: Dayton native Matt MacPherson is in his 14th season with the Wildcats. The Northridge High School Hall of Famer is associate head coach and handles the defensive backs for Fitzgerald.
5. Ohio State has dominated the series.
The Buckeyes’ 45-24 win over the Wildcats in the 2018 Big Ten championship game was Ohio State’s 62nd in the series. The only teams Ohio State has beaten more are Indiana (76) and Illinois (69).
Ohio State won the first meeting 58-0 in 1913, and it has never gotten much better for the Wildcats. They lost the first five meetings (by a combined score of 182-3) and have only 14 wins against the Buckeyes with one tie.
Ohio State has won seven in a row against Northwestern. The last loss was a 33-27 prime-time shocker in overtime in 2004, a result that snapped a 24-game winning streak for Ohio State in the series. Northwestern’s only other win since 1964 was in 1971 in Columbus, the Wildcats’ last win in Ohio Stadium.
6. Although the series has not been competitive, it has had some memorable moments.
Ohio State’s win in 1913 was its first Big Ten victory, and Ohio State’s 7-0 win over No. 7 Northwestern in 1937 was the Buckeyes’ first over an Associated Press Top 25 team.
The Ohio State school record for rushing attempts (44 by Champ Henson in 1970) and passing yards (499 by Dwayne Haskins last year) were both set against Northwestern, which gave up an OSU program modern record-tying eight rushing touchdowns to the Buckeyes in 1978 and again in 1980.
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