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  • After clobbering arguably the best defense in the country, could Ohio State really have trouble with Northwestern?
By Zachary Cohen
November 28, 2018

Northwestern vs. Ohio State (-14)

Sat. 12/1, 8:00 p.m. ET in Indianapolis, IN

Three things you need to know before betting on Northwestern-Ohio State:

1. After sleepwalking through most of its season, the real Ohio State seemingly showed up in a 62-39 win over Michigan last week. Out of nowhere, the Buckeyes suddenly have a shot of returning to the College Football Playoff. They would likely need some help in front of them, but a win over Northwestern would put them firmly back in the conversation. With Urban Meyer still coaching this Buckeyes team, bettors can expect Ohio State to be prepared for this one. The Buckeyes have won two of the last four Big Ten championships, and the team has dominated Northwestern in recent years. Prior to failing to cover in a 24-20 home win over the Wildcats in 2016, Ohio State had won and covered in five straight meetings with Northwestern. And while Northwestern is a perfect 6-0 against the spread as an underdog this season, the Buckeyes are 6-3 against the spread when playing on a neutral field under Meyer.

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2. It’s hard to pinpoint a more impressive performance from a quarterback this season than Dwayne Haskins’s against Michigan last week. The sophomore absolutely shredded one of the best defenses in college football, throwing for 396 yards with six touchdowns and no picks. It was his eighth game this season with three or more passing touchdowns, and he should have little trouble putting up big numbers once again when he takes on Northwestern this week. While the Wildcats have a good defense in their own right, it’s nowhere near as daunting of a challenge as facing Michigan’s unit, which still ranks first in the country in total defense. It helps that Northwestern allowed 4.0 yards per carry during the regular season, as most Big Ten running backs aren’t as talented as the Buckeyes' duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. Both players are explosive in the running game, and they should be able to get loose for a few big gainers in this one. At the very least, they’ll each do their parts in taking pressure off of Haskins. The same can be said for wide receivers Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill, who are as good as they come in the receiving game. Given that level of talent at the skill positions, it’s hard to imagine Northwestern preventing Ohio State from scoring a ton of points in this game.

3. Ohio State’s main weakness this season has been its defense, which comes into this contest having allowed at least 31 points in four of its past five games. The Buckeyes simply haven’t been able to stop anybody, but that’s almost another reason that this matchup is so perfect for them. Northwestern has had an impressive season, but the offense hasn’t been the team’s calling card. The Wildcats are averaging only 23.7 points per game on the year, which is worse than all but 22 teams in the nation. Clayton Thorson is a reliable quarterback for Pat Fitzgerald’s team, but he’s not the type of guy that is capable of lighting up opponents. Plus, losing running back Jeremy Larkin to a career-ending injury hurt the Northwestern running game significantly. The bottom line is that this Wildcats team isn’t going to be able to score enough points to cover what isn’t exactly an outrageous line.

Pick: Ohio State (-14)

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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