Big Ten Championship Game: Northwestern vs. Ohio State odds and preview
The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes are chasing their fourth straight Big Ten Championship Game win and will have to go through Northwestern on Saturday to achieve the feat.
The 5-0 Buckeyes also need an emphatic win to earn a second straight berth in the College Football Playoff.
With three games on its schedule cancelled because of COVID-19 issues, Ohio State was nearly held out of Saturday’s contest, because it failed to meet the six-game eligibility requirement the Big Ten set in September.
The conference reconsidered and offered the Buckeyes a waiver, after Michigan cancelled its rivalry game Saturday, because of an increase in COVID-19 cases within the Wolverines program.
#4 Ohio State vs. #14 Northwestern
Sat, December 19 2020, 5:00 PM
Ohio State Buckeyes
The No. 14 Wildcats went 6-1 during the regular season, but Northwestern's lone loss occurred against Michigan State, a team Ohio State destroyed, 52-12, Dec. 5.
Ohio State's players of the game for Saturday's 52-12 win over Michigan State:— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) December 7, 2020
Offense - Justin Fields (303 total yards, 4 total TD)
Defense - Shaun Wade and Haskell Garrett (interceptions)
Special Teams - Drue Chrisman (53.4 yards per punt, 2 punts inside 2-yard line) https://t.co/0wyVGZDceh
Dominance has been the name of the game for the Buckeyes most of the season. They rank sixth in the nation in average scoring margin (23.4 points), but when Ohio State faced the only top-10 team on its schedule, it nearly choked against then-No. 9 Indiana (the school snubbed from Saturday's title game).
That 42-35 win against the Hoosiers is the reason the CFP committee is looking for more out of a team that has played just five games.
To demonstrate its worthiness, Ohio State will need to rely on its top-ranked offense to run up the score and get a much better outing from its inconsistent defense.
Buckeyes offense will meet its match against Northwestern
While the Buckeyes rank first in the Big Ten in yards per game (532.4), rushing yards per game (251), and points per game (46.6), Northwestern's defense is ranked second in the nation in points allowed (14.6). The Wildcats also rank in the top four in the conference in rushing and pass defense, and are eighth in the country in takeaways per game (2.3).
Ohio State doesn't turn the ball over a lot, and quarterback Justin Fields is usually a sure hand. However, in Ohio State's matchup with Indiana's sturdy defense, Fields threw three interceptions. He hasn't thrown an interception in any other game this season.
The Buckeyes defense struggles against the pass and ranks last in the conference in opponent passing yards per game (268.8). The good news for Ohio State is Northwestern averages just 180.9 passing yards per game. The Wildcats rushing attack, which ranks seventh in the Big Ten, should experience a tougher time against Ohio State's No. 2 run-stop unit.
Ohio State vs. Northwestern betting trends
Northwestern will come in ready to battle against Ohio State, with the goal of revenge for a team that has a history of beating up on the Wildcats.
The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 63-14-1, and have won the last eight matchups, including a 45-24 victory in the 2018 Big Ten Championship Game.
Last season's meeting was even worse for Northwestern, as Ohio State handed the Wildcats a 52-3 defeat in Evanston.
Will Ohio State cover as 20-point favorites in the Big Ten Championship Game?
The Wildcats are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games against Ohio State, and the Over is 6-1 in the last seven matchups.
With Ohio State and Fields out to make one final statement before the CFP committee votes on its final four, expect the Buckeyes to exploit Northwestern's weaknesses and claim their fourth straight Big Ten title with authority.