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Ohio State: Do Buckeyes have any reason for concern with Northwestern?

Jeffrey Okudah-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State celebrated a win over Michigan before moving on to the Big Ten championship game. (Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports)

Question Of The Day

Ohio State: Do Buckeyes have any reason for concern with Northwestern?

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the matchup with Northwestern? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Given the option to pick from any of the legitimate contenders in the West Division, Ohio State probably would have most wanted to see Northwestern as the opponent with a Big Ten title on the line. Pat Fitzgerald has done a remarkable job building that program, Urban Meyer has made it clear how much respect he has for the Wildcats and there is no question at all they will play hard against the Buckeyes.

But Northwestern is limited offensively, outmatched in terms of talent and doesn’t have anywhere near the big-game experience or success that Ohio State will be bringing to Indianapolis.

That isn’t meant to suggest that the outcome is a foregone conclusion or even that the Buckeyes should be aiming to rack up style points in addition to defending the conference crown on Saturday night. But for a matchup in a game with so much up for grabs for Ohio State, this is most likely the ideal scenario for the program.

Purdue gave Ohio State fits with its creative offensive attack and an explosive playmaker. If it had been Iowa, the Buckeyes would have been following up a physical battle with the league’s top-ranked defense by taking on the next-best unit in the league. And based solely on the series history, Ohio State wouldn’t have been thrilled to see Wisconsin even though the normally balanced, well-coached program collapsed under the weight of expectations this season.

Parris Campbell-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Northwestern will have to try to keep pace with an explosive Ohio State offense and speedy wide receiver Parris Campbell. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

So, from that group, a Northwestern offense that is averaging less than 24 points per game would almost be a no-brainer for the Buckeyes given their inconsistency on defense this season. And while the Wildcats take after their coach when it comes to hard-nosed toughness and intensity, their defense hasn’t been on the same level as the upper-echelon in the Big Ten this year in giving up more than 372 yards per game.

Northwestern has proven before that it can handle adversity and will embrace the opportunity ahead of it as a double-digit underdog to the Buckeyes. But there are also obvious reasons for Ohio State to be favored so heavily coming on the heels of one of the most impressive victories in all of college football this season. The program finally looks to be rediscovering its championship form, and that would be bad news for anybody in the Big Ten given how much potential is packed onto that roster for Meyer.

With one on the line this week, Northwestern is probably the opponent the Buckeyes would have most wanted to face. Now it’s up to Ohio State to show why — and make one final case that it should move on to play for a national title after that.

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Nick M
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Nick M

Any team that has won 15 of their last 16 in the Big Ten is reason to be concerned. They didn’t play Rutgers 15 times in a row.

Chadnudj
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Chadnudj

Thank God we didn’t….do you realize how hard it was to beat those guys?

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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