EXAMINER Sports EXtra

The Matchups

OSU RUSH OFFENSE
VS. NEB RUSH DEFENSE
The Buckeyes ranked first in the Big Ten and fifth nationally in rushing last year with 266.8 yards per game. While they may lack an elite back like J.K. Dobbins this season, there are several capable replacements waiting for their turn and they will get to work behind a strong offensive line. Nebraska ranked 11th in the Big Ten in rushing defense last year and graduated numerous starters in its front seven. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE
VS. NEB PASS DEFENSE
Justin Fields ignited an OSU passing attack that ranked third in the conference last season. The Buckeyes graduated receivers K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Ben Victor, but an extremely talented cast of youngsters are ready to show their talents. Nebraska was solid against the pass last year, ranking seventh in the conference and 30th nationally. But they face a big challenge against Fields and Ohio State’s speedy receivers. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NEB RUSH OFFENSE
VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Cornhuskers were one of the better running teams in the Big Ten last year. They return honorable mention all-conference tailback Dedrick Mills. On the other side, Ohio State had the third-best rushing defense in the Big Ten a year ago and are expected to be stout against the rush again this fall. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NEB PASS OFFENSE
VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
Adrian Martinez struggled throwing the ball last season, but showed two years ago as a freshman that he has the potential to make plays through the air. Nebraska has a new offensive coordinator in Matt Lubick to help bring some spark to the passing game. Ohio State’s biggest question mark on defense is in the secondary, where three new starters will be getting the call Saturday. They will get a good first-game test against a veteran Big Ten quarterback. ADVANTAGE: NEB
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. PSU RUSH DEFENSE
One area that has received negative attention following Ohio State’s win over Nebraska was the slow start for the Buckeye running backs. The Buckeyes did end up rushing for 222 yards, but that total was helped by 54 yards from quarterback Justin Fields. Now, the OSU running game will be challenged with finding holes against a Penn State defense that allowed only 41 rushing yards to Indiana last week. ADVANTAGE: PSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. PSU PASS DEFENSE
Although Penn State’s defense was pretty stout overall against Indiana, the Hoosiers did hit a few big plays through the air. Ohio State will certainly try to do the same with Justin Fields and his group of young receivers. There is a chance star junior Chris Olave will be held out after taking some big hits last week, but Fields has a lot of other talented pass catchers to turn to. ADVANTAGE: OSU
PSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
Penn State cranked out 250 rushing yards in the loss to Indiana. Quarterback Sean Clifford ran for 119 yards on 17 carries and that could be a concern to OSU after Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez was able to find space with his legs. However, Clifford is not as dynamic of a runner as Martinez and the Nittany Lions are down to their third running back after Journey Brown was diagnosed with a heart issue during the off-season and Noah Cain suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week against Indiana. Devyn Ford, the current starting RB, was held to 69 yards on 20 carries vs. IU. ADVANTAGE: OSU
PSU PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
The rebuilt Ohio State secondary had a solid debut last week but Nebraska really didn’t have the firepower in its receiver group to challenge the Buckeyes. Penn State will provide more of a test. Pat Freiermuth is one of the best tight ends in the Big 10 and wide receiver Jahan Dotson is a big-play threat. He had four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown in Penn State’s opener. ADVANTAGE: PSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS RUSH DEFENSE
Being a defensive guy, it’s no surprise the Scarlet Knights have shown improvement on that side of the ball so far this season. Rutgers has been good against the run, allowing only an average of 80 yards in games against Michigan State and Indiana. However, neither of those two teams possess dynamic running games. The Buckeyes will offer a much stiffer test for the Rutgers’ rush defense. Ohio State running backs Master Teague and Trey Sermon were better against Penn State last week and they will look to continue their progress against the Scarlet Knights. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS PASS DEFENSE
Justin Fields and the OSU passing attack is off to a sensational start and the Buckeyes will attempt to stay hot against a Rutgers pass defense that is allowing 279 yards per game. The Scarlet Knights will be challenged in a big way by Fields and his two favorite targets, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Nebraska and Penn State struggled to contain that trio. ADVANTAGE: OSU
RUTGERS RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Buckeyes were able to bottle up Penn State’s running game and now ranks 38th nationally and seventh in the Big 10 against the run at 131 yards per game. Rutgers has yet to get its running game on track. The Scarlet Knights are averaging only only 114 rushing yards per game, which is 85th nationally and 11th in the Big 10. ADVANTAGE: OSU
RUTGERS PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
It’s been a long time since Rutgers has been able to put together a respectable passing game and it continues to be a work in progress this season. The Scarlet Knights have settled on Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral at quarterback. He has shown some positives at times, but does not look like a big-play QB. Rutgers ranks 94th in the nation in passing offense at 148 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSHING OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND RUSHING DEFENSE
There has been some consternation from fans and sports writers about Ohio State’s running game so far this season. Master Teague and Trey Sermon have not been quite as explosive as fans have hoped for, yet the Buckeyes rank a respectable 27th nationally in rushing at 209 yards per game. On the flip side, Maryland is allowing 227 rushing yards per game, which ranks 108th in the nation. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASSING OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND PASSING DEFENSE
The combination of Justin Fields and wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave has given opposing defenses fits so far this season. The Buckeyes are averaging 303 passing yards per game. The Terrapins gave up 340 passing yards to Penn State last week and are allowing 247 per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MARYLAND RUSHING OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSHING DEFENSE
Terrapins running back Jake Funk ranks third in the Big 10 in rushing with 112 yards per game, but as a team, Maryland is averaging a modest 156 yards per game on the ground. The Terrapins ran for just 64 yards on 21 attempts in a season-opening loss to Northwestern. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MARYLAND PASSING OFFENSE VS. OSU PASSING DEFENSE
The Terrapins have opened a lot of eyes with their passing attack, which is powered by Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa, the brother of current Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Taulia has bounced back after a rough opener vs. Northwestern with two standout games. He threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota two weeks ago and went for 282 yards and three more TDs in last week’s win over Penn State. Ohio State’s defense has given up some chunks of yards through the air. The Buckeyes are allowing 224 passing yards per game, which is 50th nationally. ADVANTAGE: MARYLAND
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. IU RUSH DEFENSE
The Buckeyes will look to continue to build on their ground attack, which ranks 27th in the nation with 209 yards per game. They face an Indiana defense that has been stout against the rush over the last two games. The Hoosiers allowed only 13 rushing yards vs. Michigan and 60 against Michigan State. However, Indiana did give up 250 rushing yards to Penn State earlier in the season. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. IU PASS DEFENSE
Justin Fields has been spectacular through three games and Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have emerged as two of the top receivers in not only the Big 10 but the entire country. The Buckeyes are throwing for over 300 yards per game. On the other side, Indiana’s pass defense has been good against average passing offenses (a combined 267 yards allowed vs. Rutgers and Michigan State) but the Hoosiers allowed 238 passing yards against Penn State and 344 vs. Michigan. ADVANTAGE: OSU
IU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Hoosiers have yet to see their ground game break out. They are 118th nationally in rushing at only 95.3 yards per game. They mustered only 41 rushing yards vs. Penn State and 109 against Rutgers. Ohio State’ rush defense has been solid. The Buckeyes are giving up 132 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
IU PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
This looks to be the toughest challenge yet for the Ohio State secondary. Led by sophomore quarterback Michael Penix, the Hoosiers are throwing for 268 yards per game. They have a stellar 1-2 punch at wide receiver in Ty Fryfogle (424 yards, four touchdowns) and Whop Philyor (287 yards, one TD). The OSU pass defense has been mediocre so far, allowing 224 yards per game, which ranks 50th nationally. ADVANTAGE: IU

OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. ILLINOIS RUSH DEFENSE

Ohio State’s rushing attack had its best performance of the season against Indiana with 307 yards on 50 attempts. Master Teague led the way with 169 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Sermon had 60 yards on nine carries and quarterback Justin Fields added 78 yards and one TD on 15 rushes. Illinois has not been good against the run, allowing 189 yards per game on the ground. ADVANTAGE: OSU

OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. ILLINOIS PASS DEFENSE

While Justin Fields was not his typical self with three interceptions in the narrow win over Indiana, the Buckeyes still reached 300 passing yards. Receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson continue to make big plays. Illinois’ defense held Nebraska to just 177 passing yards last week, but the Fighting Illini rank 106th nationally in passing yards allowed. ADVANTAGE: OSU

ILLINOIS RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE

The bread and butter of the Illinois offense is its rushing attack. The Illini rank second in the Big 10 behind Ohio State in rushing with 222 yards per game. Running backs Mike Epstein and Chase Brown both went over 100 yards in last week’s win over Nebraska and backup quarterback Isaiah Williams has been brought in at times to take advantage of his running skills. The Buckeyes held Indiana to minus-one yard rushing last week, but the Fighting Illini will provide a much tougher challenge. ADVANTAGE: ILLINOIS

ILLINOIS PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE

After an ugly day against Indiana, Ohio State’s secondary will look for redemption against an Illinois offense that has struggled in the passing game. Illinois is averaging only 148 passing yards per game, which ranks 113th nationally. No other Big 10 team has thrown for fewer yards than the Illini. ADVANTAGE: OSU

OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. MSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Ohio State rushing attack, coming off a 300-yard performance against Indiana, is ranking 28th nationally with 208 yards per game. Michigan State has been solid against the run, allowing 149 yards per contest. The Spartans have not faced a top rushing attack, though. They allowed 226 yards on the ground to Iowa, which is ranked 51st in the country in rushing. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. MSU PASS DEFENSE
The Buckeyes rank second in the Big 10 and 21st nationally in passing with 302.7 yards per game. Michigan State has struggled at times defending the pass, giving up 242 yards per game through the air. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
Running the football has been a major struggle for the Spartans. They are averaging only 74 rushing yards per game. Only four teams in the country have rushed for fewer yards than the Spartans. On the flip side, the Buckeyes are giving up 132 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 35th nationally. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MSU PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
After giving up nearly 500 passing yards to Indiana in its last game, Ohio State’s secondary needs to make major improvements if the Buckeyes want to make a national title run. The Spartans’ offense overall has not been impressive, but they have shown the ability to make plays in the passing game with junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi and some promising young receivers. MSU is averaging 250 passing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: MSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. NW RUSH DEFENSE
There has been some consternation among Ohio State fans that the rushing attack, with Master Teague and Trey Sermon as the top two backs, is not quite as dynamic as it was expected to be coming into the season. But the reality is Ohio State is the number-one ranked rushing offense in the Big 10 and the seventh-best in the country at 251 yards per game. Helping that stat is the rushing ability of QB Justin Fields. Northwestern has the fourth-best rushing defense in the Big 10, but the Wildcats have not faced a quarterback with the ability to run like Fields. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. NW PASS DEFENSE
The Wildcats have been stellar defending the pass, ranking second in the conference and 21st in the nation in passing yards allowed at 192 per game. However, Northwestern’s secondary will receive its biggest challenge of the season against an Ohio State offense averaging 281 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NW RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Wildcats do not boast an explosive offense. They prefer to grind it out with a physical running game that is averaging a respectable 171 yards per contest. It could be tough sledding, though, against the Buckeyes. Ohio State is second in the Big 10 and sixth in the country in rushing defense, allowing only 95 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NW PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
The good news for Northwestern and its quarterback Peyton Ramsey, a transfer from Indiana, is that it is facing an Ohio State pass defense than ranks 111th nationally is passing yards allowed (269 per game). The Wildcats have not been a potent passing team (181 ypg) but they have to feel like they can make some plays against an Ohio State secondary that has given up some big chunks of yardage at times. ADVANTAGE: NW

B10 CHAMPIONSHIP: vs. NORTHWESTERN

TV: NOON, SATURDAY, DEC. 12, FOX

THE SERIES

The Buckeyes have dominated the all-time series with the Wildcats. OSU holds a lead of 16-14-1.  Ohio State has won the last eight matchups over NW. The last win for the Wildcats came in a 33-27 overtime victory in 2004. Ohio State routed Northwestern 52-3 last season and beat the Wildcats 45-24 in the Big 10 championship game two years ago.

GOING FOR 4

Ohio State is attempting to win its fourth consecutive Big 10 championship. This is the sixth time the Buckeyes have played in the conference title game, which is the most of any member of the Big 10.

HOW NW GOT HERE

The Wildcats won the Big 10’s West Division with a 6-1 record. They finished one game ahead of Iowa.  Northwestern’s best win was a 21-20 victory over the Hawkeyes. NW also owns wins over Maryland, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Northwestern’s recipe for success has been relying on its gritty defense. The Wildcats are averaging a modest 25 points per game on offense, but they are giving up just 14 per game.

SIDNEY WILDCAT

Local football fans will recognize Northwestern running back Isiah Bowser. A former standout at Sidney High School, Bowser is part of a running back by committee approach for the Wildcats this season. He leads the team in rushing attempts (77) and is second in rushing yards with 229. Bowser has seen his carries decline in recent weeks. He has carried the ball only 16 times over the last three games, including five carries for 17 yards in last week’s win over Illinois.

AWARD WINNING

The Big 10 announced its season awards this week, with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields being named the offensive player of the year for the second straight season and was also selected as the conference’s quarterback of the year. OSU guard Wyatt Davis was tabbed the offensive lineman of the year.

RECRUITING TRAIL

The Buckeyes entered Wednesday’s early signing day with what most of the recruiting services recognize as the second-best class in the country behind Alabama. Ohio State added another big-time blue chipper late last week when Washington product Emeka Egbuka, the consensus top wide receiver in the country, announced that he will be signing with the Buckeyes. It marks the second straight season Ohio State will sign the nation’s top-ranked receiver after inking Julian Fleming last year.

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