Why Northwestern Will Win The Big Ten Championship
– The Wildcats need the pre-Michigan Ohio State team to show up. The Buckeyes are far, far better than Northwester, but they were far, far better than Purdue and Maryland, too. This has been a generally underachieving team that still manages to win even when it doesn’t play all that well. Northwestern has been a generally overachieving team that manages to find ways to keep games close and pull out wins even though there’s nothing pretty about it.
– Isaiah Bowser, this has to be your game. The Ohio State run defense has been spotty, at best, and lost in the Michigan win was how the D wasn’t anything special. Northwestern doesn’t have a ground game like Maryland’s that’s going to rip up big yards in chunks, but it needs its freshman to be a 100-yard machine.
The spotlight will be on Clayton Thorson as he tries to keep the passing game going, but this should be on Bowser. He stepped up after starter Jeremy Larkin had to retire, running for 100-yard or more in four of the last six games and for 85 yards in all six.
– If Northwestern is able to bog down this game and keep it at its pace, the little things should matter. The Wildcats don’t dominate the time of possession battle, but they can slow things down to a crawl. They haven’t lost the turnover battles over the last five games with no fumbles lost – and just two on the year – over that span.
And then there are the penalties – they don’t commit them – with a nation-low 34 on the season for just 320 yards. Ohio State? It’s a penalty machine, getting nailed for 98 flags including 22 in the last two games.