The two teams are meeting for the first time since Ohio State beat Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game last season. And they couldn’t be on more different paths at the moment. Despite having a new coach and quarterback, the Buckeyes have outscored opponents 296-53 — an average of 40.5 points per game that is the biggest differential among FBS schools. The Big Ten-leading 296 points tie the 2016 team for the highest total through six games in school history.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields vs. Northwestern’s defense. Fields ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency and fifth with 18 touchdown throws. His eight scoring runs give him 26 TDs, the same amount Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins had through six games last year.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northwestern: QBs Hunter Johnson and Aidan Smith. Johnson started the first four games before leaving the loss at Wisconsin Sept. 28 because of a lower body injury and sat out the loss 13-10 loss at Nebraska the following week. Smith got intercepted by the Cornhuskers’ Lamar Jackson, leading to Lane McCallum’s 24-yard field goal as time ran out.
Ohio State: RB J.K. Dobbins. The Buckeyes’ top running back ranks second in the nation in both total yards rushing (826) and yards rushing per game (137.6). He has 13 runs of 15 yards or more, including TDs of 60 and 67.
FACTS & FIGURES
Ohio State is tops in the Big Ten with 3,207 yards and averaging 534.5 per game, leading Penn State (465.3) by a wide margin. The Buckeyes rank third in the nation in rushing. … The Buckeyes have 24 touchdowns in 30 red-zone opportunities. … Ohio State ranks second to Wisconsin in the nation and Big Ten in total defense. … The Buckeyes lead the nation with 28 sacks. … Northwestern is seeking its first win over a top-five team since 1961. … Three of Northwestern’s losses this season are by 10 points or less.