Wednesday, October 2, 2013

GAME PREVIEW: BUCKEYES, 'CATS SHOULD LIGHT UP THE NIGHT

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COLUMBUS — Ohio State is coming off an impressive home victory against rival Wisconsin, taking down the Badgers last Saturday night behind the electrifying play of quarterback Braxton Miller, and a defense that put a serious choke hold on the top rushing attack in the nation.

But there's no time for an after-party, no time for logging on to Travelocity to book reservations to Pasadena ... no, they have to offer up an encore performance. And on the primetime stage once again.

The fourth-rated Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will travel to Evanston (Ill.) this Saturday night (8 p.m., ABC) to do battle with the unbeaten 16th ranked Northwestern Wildcats (4-0, 0-0), perhaps the most daunting roadblock on Ohio State's path to southern California.

The Wildcats, like the Buckeyes, can put points on the scoreboard in bunches (41.3 points per game), and they do it in plethora of different ways.

While the Buckeyes have a quarterback in Miller who can dispatch opposing defenses with both his arm and his feet, the Wildcats possess the same attributes under center — except they do it using two players, instead of one.

When the 'Cats want to toss the pigskin around the field, they employ junior Trevor Siemian — a 6-foot-3, 210-pound pocket passer — who has completed 67-percent of his passes this season for 671 yards and four touchdowns.

When Northwestern wants to go with a dynamic attack, they insert senior Kain Colter, a mobile signal caller who has only attempted 35 passes this season, but has toted the rock 39 times for 237 yards (6.1) and three touchdowns.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer — who is 17-0 as boss of the Buckeyes — has his attention set on Northwestern's two-headed monster at quarterback.

"They are good players," Meyer said, during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus on Monday. "(Siemian) has completed 70 percent of his passes. (Colter) is a very good runner and he can also throw it. There's a lot of similarities in the two offenses. Their offensive coordinator was at Bowling Green right after I left, (Mike) McCall. 

"I've watched them play and I see they are good, and schematically they are very good."

Of course, the Buckeyes don't need to insert two different players at quarterback in order to pose a passing and rushing threat, as Miller is the ultimate multi-talented specimen.

After missing nearly a month of action due to a knee injury, Miller returned last Saturday night against Wisconsin and showed no ill effects, throwing for a career-high (tying) four touchdowns, and did by sizzling NFL-caliber passes from in the pocket and on the move.

According to this writer's opinion, Miller had his best day as a passer in a Buckeye uniform.

Meyer said Monday that he wasn't surprised about that after watching Miller in practice during the week going into the Wisconsin game.

"I thought his preparation for the game was one of the best he's had," Meyer said of Miller. "His practice was one of the best he's had as far as Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. I thought his accuracy on the deep ball was outstanding ... I thought he did well."

Bottom Line

Each team can hit you in a number of ways offensively, so it's going to be the play of the defenses which will likely dictate the outcome.

This is where the Buckeyes leave the Wildcats behind.

Ohio State surrenders 121 yards and a touchdown less per game than the Wildcats this season, and are much more stingy against the pass. In fact, there are only six schools in the FBS (123 total teams) who have given up more through the air than the Wildcats.

Look for the Buckeyes to take advantage of that fact, and for Miller to have another career day with his arm.

Let's hope the university paid the electric bill at Ryan Field, because that scoreboard is gonna need a lot of juice come Saturday night.

Lee's prediction: OSU 56-34