Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 4, 2013 at 8:00 PM
Before the season started, the keys to an undefeated season for the Ohio State Buckeyes largely hinged on the two-week stretch that turned September into October. They would have to host defending Big 10 champion Wisconsin (mission accomplished), then visit dangerous Northwestern one week later on the road in a potential letdown spot (this week’s prime time game on ABC).
Ohio State took care of business in rather impressive fashion last week. The scoreboard and stats don’t show it so much because Wisconsin picked up some garbage time yardage late in the game while rallying from a double digit deficit. The Buckeyes owned the point of attack, winning rushing yardage 192-104. Do THAT vs. WISCONSIN, and you’ve played a heckuva game.
Will Ohio State succumb to the dreaded “letdown” factor after taking out the defending league champs? Or, are they so much better than Northwestern in the stuff that matters most that fans, the media, and bettors should just get used to the idea already that Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are on their way to an undefeated regular season?
Let’s review what’s happened so far this season for both Ohio State and Northwestern. It’s particularly helpful here that both teams played at California, giving us a same-site common opponent.
Ohio State (-34) beat Buffalo 40-20 (winning yardage 458-265)
Ohio State (-28) beat San Diego State 42-7 (winning yardage 445-280)
Ohio State (-14) won at California 52-34 (winning yardage 608-502)
Ohio State (-50) beat Florida A&M 76-0 (winning yardage 603-80)
Ohio State (-7) beat Wisconsin 31-24 (losing yardage 399-390)
As we mentioned above, the stats and score don’t tell the story for the Wisconsin game. And, one could argue that the prior schedule was so pathetic that the stats and scores don’t tell much of a story anyway! All decent teams could name the score against Florida A&M. Buffalo’s not going to scare anybody. San Diego State was playing awful football at the time of that game (they’ve since made a quarterback switch). Even California is bad…but at least they’re a bad team that also hosted Northwestern.
Northwestern (-6) beat California 44-30, losing yardage 548-508
Northwestern (-17) beat Syracuse 48-27, winning yardage 581-434
Northwestern (-28) beat Western Michigan 38-17, winning yardage 471-345
Northwestern (-28) beat Maine 35-21, losing yardage 379-373
Let’s start with the Cal dynamic. Northwestern was actually outgained by the Golden Bears. You may recall that season opener where the visiting Wildcats enjoyed some cheap points on defense that saved what would otherwise have been a coin flip ending.
If you’re only looking at scoring margins…
Ohio State +18
But, if you look at total yardage differential…
Ohio State +105
Well…Ohio State grades out better…but that’s no surprise. Does all that suggest the Buckeyes should be -7 on the road….meaning they’re a full 10 points better than Northwestern in raw Power Ratings? That’s what handicappers have to determine.
In terms of nuts and bolts football, this much is clear:
*Ohio State is going to own the point of attack, and will probably outgain Northwestern by a significant margin. Northwestern got outgained by Maine for goodness sake!
*Northwestern will have to hang close with an erratic offense that’s capable of putting up points or giving away field position with turnovers.
*If Northwestern wins the turnover battle, they’re capable of springing an upset
*If Northwestern loses the turnover battle, they’re still capable of covering in garbage time
*If Northwestern can’t get many stops, and turns the ball over at least three times…then things could get very ugly in a blowout loss.
The markets are expecting a high scoring game…
Current Vegas Line: Ohio State by 7, total of 61
Both teams played very high scoring games with California, as those landed on 86 and 74 points respectively. But, the Buckeyes only played to 55 points last week vs. the Badgers…and didn’t reach 61 against either Buffalo or San Diego State.
JIM HURLEY knows you love watching yourself win on TV. If Ohio State/Northwestern is deserving of your attention, it will either be a major Saturday play for NETWORK or part of our patented TV TRIPLE CROWN (where we’re also looking at Maryland/Florida State, Washington/Stanford, Notre Dame/Arizona State, and a few others). You can purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office Saturday morning before the early kickoffs at 1-888-777-4155.
We head back to the NFL tomorrow to look at the Sunday Night game matching Houston and San Francisco. Monday's report will cover the NY Jets at Atlanta for NOTEBOOK readers. We’re planning to get caught up with the baseball playoffs in our Tuesday and Wednesday reports before big game football returns next Thursday.
Are the sportsbooks in for an October Surprise? They have no idea what JIM HURLEY is about to unleash on them this weekend in college and pro football! DON’T MISS A SINGLE WINNER!