Current Head Coach
Pat Fitzgerald – 95-69 in 13 seasons at Northwestern.
Let’s be honest: Northwestern’s offense has struggled this season. The Wildcats rank 114th nationally in total offense and 126th in yards per play. Northwestern uses a balanced attack, rushing the ball 454 times while throwing 454 passes. Expect them to spread the field and use a lot of RPO’s, similar to what Purdue did earlier in the season.
Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz is one of the best in the business. Sure, his defense might not produce a lot of negative plays, but it gets the job done where it matters most. The Wildcats rank 10th nationally in red zone TD percentage allowing its opponents to reach the end zone just 45.71% of the time. While that stat might not look all that sexy, it makes an important point: Northwestern’s defense gets even tougher as its opponents approach the goal line. Ohio State must make the most of its red zone chances to win this contest.
Best Player On Offense
Clayton Thorson, QB — You aren’t going to win a lot of games when you average 3.03 yards per carry unless you have an excellent quarterback. Thorson is that guy. He’s an incredibly accurate passer, completing over 60% of his tosses over the past two seasons. He’s also capable of carrying the load when needed, throwing for over 300 yards eight times. Look for him to take a few deep shots early in the contest to test the OSU secondary.
Best Player On Defense
Joe Gaziano, DE — Without question, Gaziano is the most disruptive player on the Northwestern defense. He leads the team in tackles for loss (11.0), quarterback sacks (6.0), and quarterback hurries (8), while ranking second on the team in forced fumbles. And, as the clip above demonstrates, Ohio State’s offensive line must account for him in pass protection on every single play if it wants to keep Haskins healthy.
Northwestern Can Win The Game If …
…it continues its mastery in the red zone.
Make no mistake about it: Northwestern doesn’t have enough firepower on offense to win a shootout against the Buckeyes. That means that the Wildcats will need to force OSU to settle for field goals inside the red zone. If — and it’s an Orlando Pace-sized if — it can do that, then Northwestern will be headed back to the Rose Bowl.
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