Ohio State has played well in a couple of big games recently, but when they face Northwestern Saturday at 6:00 P.M. in Evanston, the Buckeyes might find themselves in a bit of a trap game. With matchups against rival Michigan, No. 18 Minnesota and No. 15 Wisconsin coming up, this one against an unranked Wildcat squad could take them by surprise.
Ohio State (21-0, 8-0) brought its season long tear to a crescendo on Tuesday evening with a dominating 87-64 win against No. 12 Purdue in Columbus. The Buckeyes dominated in almost every facet of the game on route to a victory that left little doubt in the minds of voters about which team belongs at No. 1 in the polls. However, the potential for a let down is always present, especially against a regular cellar dweller like Northwestern.
Speaking of the 'cats (13-7, 3-6), they've been pretty hard to pin down this Big Ten season. Northwestern has managed victories over teams it needed to beat in Iowa, Indiana and Michigan and has even played well in games it wasn't supposed to against Michigan State, but Bill Carmody's squad is still looking for a signature win to vault itself back into NCAA consideration. This would obviously be about as good an opportunity as the Wildcats are going to get.
Keys to the game after the jump.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
- The Buckeyes hold a pretty distinct rebound advantage in this one. Northwestern needs to make sure that doesn't manifest itself in its defensive end, or Jared Sullinger could have a huge day. Ohio State will pull down its boards, but to keep things close, the 'cats really need to limit any potential second chances.
- Hard to pinpoint an area where Ohio State needs to improve in this one. The Bucks are firing on all cylinders right now. They just need to stay consistent and within their game plan and they should be successful.
When Northwestern Has The Ball
John Shurna hasn't been nearly the same player this season against the upper echelon of Big Ten competition that he has been against teams like Iowa and Indiana. He needs to step up in this game for Northwestern to have a chance.
- Northwestern shoots the three ball well, and that's always bad news when you're a favorite on the road. The Buckeyes need to ensure they don't get bombed out of Welsh-Ryan by making perimeter defense a priority.
There are reasons why Northwestern could pull this upset, but few of them seem plausible. It's going to take a total team effort to beat the mighty Buckeyes and the 'cats haven't come close to proving they're capable of that yet. Expect Ohio State to stay perfect at the half way point in its Big Ten schedule.