Ohio State Buckeyes at Northwestern Wildcats Pick 10/18/19
Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0) at Northwestern Wildcats (1-4)
When: Friday, October 18, 8:30 p.m EDT
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
Point Spread: OHST -28 (SportBet))
Total: O/U 49
Outlook For Week 8
Under Ryan Day, Ohio State has gone from the best in the Big Ten to a genuine national championship contender. The Buckeyes have blasted one opponent after another, and even some of their blowouts have turned into good wins. For example, Cincinnati looked like nothing more than an average buy game when the Buckeyes scored a 42-0 rout against their in-state foe in Week 2, but that remains the Bearcats’ only loss, and Cincinnati has emerged as one of the best teams in the American by beating Central Florida. Ohio State owns wins over Michigan State and Nebraska, and the Buckeyes haven’t looked threatened even once this season.
Northwestern, on the other hand, has seen one aggravating loss after another and looks like it might be on the outside looking in at a bowl game. The Wildcats are 1-4, and while their schedule gets a lot friendlier down the stretch, they’ll have to win five of their final seven just to become eligible for a bowl. The Wildcats haven’t been blown out by anyone except Michigan State, and that includes a tough fight at Wisconsin. Pat Fitzgerald’s squad is the king of playing to its competition: the Wildcats are excellent at staying in the game against good opponents but struggle when they’re facing a lesser foe.
How the Public is Betting the Ohio State/Northwestern Game?
The public is all over the Buckeyes in this contest, stretching the line from an opening of 13.5 for Ohio State to 28 points. The total has barely budged, going from 48.5 to 49.
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Tight end Rashod Berry is questionable with an undefined injury. Defensive end Tyler Friday and wide receiver Ellijah Gardiner are also questionable, with Friday’s reasons undisclosed and Gardiner because of an unrevealed injury.
Defensive back Bryce Jackson is questionable with an undisclosed injury, as are running back Isaiah Bowser (knee), Rashawn Slater (undefined), and quarterback Hunter Johnson (knee).
When Ohio State Has the Ball
The Buckeyes are scoring almost at will, as Justin Fields has shown exactly why he was so highly recruited with how well he has commanded the Ohio State offense. Against Michigan State, Fields finally threw his first interception of the season, but otherwise, he was brilliant again in the win over the Spartans. Overall, he’s tossed 18 touchdowns against that single pick, and other than the win over Indiana, every game has seen his completion percentage over 60 percent.
But what really makes the Buckeye offense run is that Fields is complemented by J.K. Dobbins in the backfield. Ohio State actually gains more yardage on the ground than it does through the air, a rarity in this day and age, and Dobbins’ 7.1 yards per carry is the main reason why. Only Miami of Ohio “held” him under 100 rushing yards, and that was because the Buckeyes destroyed the Redhawks so thoroughly (76-5) that Dobbins only touched the ball eight times in the entire contest. That’s a worry for Northwestern, which doesn’t give up a lot of points but doesn’t have a great run defense. The Wildcats give up 142.8 yards per game, which won’t work against this offense.
When Northwestern Has the Ball
Are you wondering why the Wildcats have struggled so badly on offense this year? It’s pretty simple: they’re on their third quarterback of the season. TJ Green started the season as the man under center, but he had foot surgery after exiting the third quarter of the opener against Stanford. No. 2 Hunter Johnson had to miss the Nebraska game because of a knee injury, and that left the job to Aidan Smith, who has admittedly struggled to lead an offense that hasn’t put up more than 15 points in any of its four defeats.
That’s forced the Wildcats to focus on the ground, where Drake Anderson has been an excellent find. However, Anderson is just a freshman and can’t shoulder the entire load on his own. In order to stay with the Buckeyes, the Wildcats have to get more out of the passing game. If Johnson is able to play, that would be a major shot in the arm for an offense that needs it.
October is the time when weird things start to happen in college football, and Ohio State is no exception. The Buckeyes are just 1-4 in their past five games in October, which stands in stark contrast to their success this season against Big Ten foes. Not only is Ohio State 5-0 in its previous five Big Ten games, but the Buckeyes have won all five of their games ATS since a near-cover against Florida Atlantic in the season opener.
Northwestern, on the other hand, has been a dangerous foe when it’s coming off a loss. The Wildcats are 6-1 ATS when they lost the previous week, and October is when Pat Fitzgerald does his best work. Northwestern is 6-1 ATS in its past seven games in October, and it’s gone 22-7-1 against the Big Ten over the past four seasons. However, home games have been a significant problem for the Wildcats as of late, as Northwestern is 0-3-1 ATS in its previous four home games.
When this matchup has been played, which hasn’t been annually since the Big Ten went to geographic divisions, it’s tended to favor Ohio State and the over. The Buckeyes have covered in six of their past seven meetings, and the over is 5-1 in the teams’ past six matchups, including all four of the most recent meetings in Illinois.
Friday will be perfect football weather for the middle of October, as the temperatures are expected to be 61 degrees at kickoff.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
I really don’t like this spread. Ohio State is easily the better team and should have no problems winning this game, but four touchdowns is a large spread to worry about, especially against a team that does not get blown out and almost prides itself on competing every week. The teams have only met three times since 2008, and Pat Fitzgerald has kept the Wildcats in the game every time, with last year’s Big Ten title game being the biggest margin of victory for the Buckeyes since 2008, at 21 points.
I don’t want to bet against Ohio State’s offense here, but this is a Friday night game on the road against a team that’s been an annoying thorn in the side of a lot of good teams over the past several years. Weird things happen in those situations, and four touchdowns are just too much to give up in this contest. Give me the Wildcats to stay close enough for the cover.
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