COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio State will play a rare Friday night game when the Buckeyes take on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois.
The 1-4 Wildcats have lost three games in a row, but Ohio State will not be looking past this Northwestern team.
“We just know history can repeat itself,” cornerback Jeffrey Okudah said. [Northwestern] prides themselves on toughness and being really smart so if we’re not ready to play, they’re going to punch us in the mouth. Sometimes, as you guys can see, you don’t recover from that. A whole season can be shattered just by one game.”
“All you’re worried about is this game right here,” Head Coach Ryan Day said. “We all know what happens when you lose focus and we cannot do that.”
“We focus on every single week,” defensive lineman Jonathon Cooper said. “We take every week very seriously and we try not to look too far ahead in the future.”
In order to maintain focus, the Buckeyes can look to Northwestern’s nine-point loss to Wisconsin less than three weeks ago. The Wildcats kept it close at Camp Randall Stadium forcing two turnovers while only allowing 113 yards passing. In fact, defense is Northwestern’s bread and butter with the team ranking in the top 30 in yards allowed per game (318.8) and points allowed per game (19.8).
Day challenged his team during the bye week by giving each player three things to get better at so that the Buckeyes will be ready for the tougher competition coming their way in the second half of the regular season.
“As we get into tighter and tighter competition, [mistakes] are going to show up more and more,” Day said. “That’s the challenge for the staff and for this team to understand the urgency to get better even though maybe sometimes those mistakes haven’t cost us a game yet.”
But mistakes have cost Northwestern. The Wildcats rank 115th in the country in turnover margin at -4 and have turned the ball over 12 times in five games. Plus, the Wildcats’ offense isn’t doing the defense any favors as the 3rd-worst scoring offense in the FBS at 14.4 points per game.
Ohio State’s No. 2 ranked defense looks to take advantage of Northwestern’s reeling offense while the Buckeyes’ offense looks to pick up where it left off before the bye week.
“I just think my command over the overall offense and the team has definitely changed from I guess the start of the season to now,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “I think those guys trust in me and I definitely trust all the guys on offense so I think we’re definitely going to improve throughout the year.”
The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten with 3,027 total yards and rank third in the country in rushing at 288.5 yards a game highlighted by J.K. Dobbins who’s 826 yards rank second in the country.
Don’t forget the game has been moved from FS1 to the Big Ten Network with kickoff set for 8:30 EST.