1. Saturday Night Lights, Part 2
Coming off the high of taking down Wisconsin in prime time last weekend, the Ohio State Buckeyes are forced to play under the lights again — this time away from the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium. The game against Northwestern is slated to air live on ABC at 8 p.m. and is set to be the host site for ESPN’s College GameDay series, so the pressure will be on OSU to perform again under the spotlight. Northwestern is the highest-ranked team the Buckeyes are scheduled to face this season at No. 16, and it could provide a tough challenge for coach Urban Meyer’s team. If the Buckeyes can handle the pressure for the second straight week, it will go a long way to keeping their potential run to a national championship game appearance alive.
2. The Northwestern Offense
Although Wisconsin has a fantastic pair of running backs in redshirt-sophomore Melvin Gordon and senior James White, it is safe to say OSU has yet to face a team with a range of weapons like Northwestern’s. The return of senior running back Venric Mark, who ran for a team-leading 1,366 yards in 2012, from a leg injury is a boost for the Wildcats). Perhaps Northwestern’s biggest threat is senior quarterback Kain Colter. Although he splits time under center with junior Trevor Siemian, Colter is second on the team in both rushing and passing yards and will look to use his dual-threat ability against a young OSU front seven. If Northwestern can get the ball rolling early, it will be hard for the Buckeyes to catch up.
3. Can Roby bounce back?
So far in the four games that redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby has played, he has struggled twice — against California and Wisconsin. Last week, Roby was matched up one-on-one for a majority of the game with Wisconsin redshirt-senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who burned Roby consistently for 10 catches, 207 yards and a touchdown. If the Buckeyes hope to contain Northwestern, Roby will need to be on his game, most likely matching up against junior wide receiver Tony Jones. Another week can’t go by with the preseason second-team AP All-American cornerback struggling if OSU plans to keep its undefeated season alive.
4. Kenny Guiton and Jordan Hall
Redshirt-seniors quarterback Kenny Guiton and running back Jordan Hall lead OSU in passing yards and rushing yards, respectively. Yet against Wisconsin, the pair combined for zero passing yards and five rushing yards on one carry. The return of junior quarterback Braxton Miller from an MCL sprain and senior running back Carlos Hyde from a three-game suspension have made it difficult for two of the Buckeyes’ early season stars to find time on the field. Meyer and the OSU coaching staff have said consistently they want to keep Guiton and Hall involved, but if another week goes by without either playing a significant role, don’t be surprised if they fall by the wayside completely. It will be interesting to see how often either player sees the field Saturday against the Wildcats.
5. Will Braxton keep it rolling?
Coming into the game against Wisconsin, a lot of questions surrounded Miller’s play after he missed almost three whole games with his MCL injury. He came out and answered the call against the Badgers, throwing for 198 yards and four touchdowns to go with 83 rushing yards. Although Miller said otherwise this week, missing 11 full quarters with his injury probably derailed any Heisman trophy hopes he entered 2013 with, but there is no reason to expect any sort of drop-off in production. Against a high-flying Northwestern squad that is 21st in the nation in points per game, Miller will need to be at his finest to pull out the victory and keep Meyer’s record flawless at OSU.