No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) at No. 15 Northwestern (4-0)
Ohio State leads series 59-14-1 (Last meeting November 8, 2008: Ohio State 45, Northwestern 10)
For Ohio State, a trip to Evanston may be just another game against a ranked opponent, but for Northwestern, this weekend’s matchup is the one of the biggest in school history. The Wildcats have won seven in a row dating back to last season, but none of the wins have come against ranked opponents, much less the number three team in the nation. College GameDay is in town for the first time since 1995, and the game is being broadcast nationally in primetime on ABC.
Since Urban Meyer took over in Columbus, the Buckeyes are 17-0, nearly doubling up opponents by an average score of 40-21. Meyer has yet to face Northwestern, but the Buckeyes have had plenty of success against the Wildcats historically, winning 27 of the last 28 meetings dating back to 1971. The Buckeye offense ranks seventh in the nation at 48 points per game, and the defense has allowed just 17 points per game. QB’s Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton have combined for 19 touchdowns and three interceptions, with each completing more than 68% of pass attempts. Ohio State will be playing its first game without starting safety Christian Bryant who injured his ankle in the team’s victory over Wisconsin.
While Ohio State deals with the injury to their defensive leader, Northwestern looks to get back one of their offensive weapons, senior RB Venric Mark, who is expected to play for the first time since the season opener. Mark was an All-American punt returner in 2012, while rushing for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns, but has been hampered by a leg injury this season. The addition of Mark gives Northwestern several options on offense, spearheaded by the quarterback duo of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. The quarterbacks have combined for 935 passing yards, 272 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, leading a Wildcats team that has scored more than 30 points in each of its first four games. The defense has stepped in with four pick-sixes, leading the nation, and 10 total interceptions. Northwestern has recorded at least one interception in every game during its current winning streak.
Extra point: The last time the Wildcats and Buckeyes met under the lights at Ryan Field was in 2004 when Northwestern upset then No. 7 Ohio State, 33-27 in overtime.