SouthCapital Tales

Campus Clash- Big Ten Championship

(19) Northwestern Wildcats at (10) Ohio State Buckeyes

Northwestern: What a story they have been and if you look at their recent seasons prior to the 2018 campaign, you’d see that their arrow was trending up and they were always so close to really making a name for themselves in the Big Ten. I’ll be the first to admit to you when I’m wrong and I was beyond wrong about this because coming into the year when I did my annual previews and I did the Big Ten West, I had the Wisconsin Badgers winning the division and getting back to the conference title game in December after winning the division last season, but it didn’t pan out that way and the Northwestern Wildcats won their first division championship in school history. It isn’t just one player that makes them go, they play so well as a team and that’s what has set them apart from other teams in their division. They balance things out offensively (237 passing yards per game and 114 rushing yards per game) and what else makes them a special group is the fact they can run, set the tempo of the game and use speed offensively and if they have to grind the game out, they can control the clock, win the time of possession battle and remain in the close games so they can score in the shootouts and win the close three-point games. The engine to their offense is a quarterback from Wheaton, Illinois named Clayton Thorson. Standing at 6’4, he can look over the line and see the whole field. He always has his feet moving and his head is always up on a swivel looking for the open guy. He has a strong feel for the pocket and shifts away from any pressure coming his way and also displays a strong throwing arm and when the coverages have really shut down his receivers, he can run when he needs too so the play can remain alive and he can also score touchdowns on the ground in the running game. When I look at their defense, they try and they give 100 percent and that’s all you ask of your defense. On Saturday night, they’ll be playing in a game that they had no business playing in according to some.

Ohio State: So, I was really impressed with them at the beginning of the year with how they were playing and putting teams away early on. Then, came the issues with them struggling to close out and needing the fourth quarter to pull away and I kept saying to myself all these issues where they fall behind and try to come back won’t always work because there would be a team who would start early once again and that’s exactly what happened when they were upset at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers. Even after that, I was still skeptical about them because they seemed to have such a hard time running the football and the defense was also very hard to keep up with because they were struggling to rush the passer and in the secondary, they gave up a lot of those big plays down the field. On Saturday at the shoe against the Michigan Wolverines, all of what I typed about them struggling went out the window and that was the best I’ve seen the Buckeyes look because they established the tempo of the game in their favor, the offensive line kept Dwayne Haskins protected, the receivers destroyed the confidence of the number one defense in the country and although the defense gave up 39 points, they played well and kept Patterson in the pocket and when they play like this, they’re tough to beat. So everyone is asking: Where has THIS team been? They always seem to step up on the biggest stages and they did that again. Ohio State will look to win their second conference title in a row on Saturday.

Northwestern Player To Watch: Sam Miller– The one thing Michigan didn’t do on Saturday in Columbus and that was rush or apply any type of pressure on Haskins. His speed off the edge caught my eye when I did the research and that’s what’s needed to keep Haskins in check because he’s using his mobility more. Sam is relentless in his pursuit of the passer with physical hands to shed blockers.

Ohio State Player To Watch: K.J. Hill– He was big time in the win against the Wolverines and he needs to continue this play once again and moving forward. He’s one of the big play games that can get down the field and if you put it up in the air, he will catch the ball.

Final Analysis: December, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and football begins to heat up. You have the NFL playoff picture slowly forming itself and this is championship week in college football. Whoever would’ve thought the Northwestern Wildcats would be in Indianapolis for this game? Ohio State has been here before and will look to win their third conference title since 2014. Northwestern has to play smart and control their emotions. Live in the moment but also be ready to give your all because the team on the opposing sideline won’t go down without a fight. The running game will be key for both teams in this one I feel along with the quarterback play as well. Lucas Oil will be one of the sites for a conference championship game over the weekend and I think Ohio State wants to come out and send another message as they did over the weekend.

Prediction: Ohio State 45 Northwestern 28