Try to ignore the record and look at what Northwestern’s defense has done through the first five games of the season. You may actually be impressed with how the Wildcats have held their own on that side of the football.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day certain has been.

Northwestern is only giving up 19.8 points per game this season, allowing 318.8 yards per game. In particular, the red zone defense has been especially tough. Northwestern’s opponents have made 14 red zone appearances this year, and have scored just six touchdowns on the year.

It’s that kind of effort that has allowed Northwestern to hang around in just about every game this season, despite a sluggish offense. Unfortunately for Pat Fitzgerald and company, it hasn’t been enough to get many wins, posting a 1-4 record through seven weeks.

Still, Day isn’t taking the defense lightly.

“This is a defense that’s really back from last year,” Day said on 97.1 The Fan. “They’ve done a great job this year. They really haven’t given up much all year.”

Aside from allowing Michigan State to score 31 points, no other opponent has scored more than 24 points this year. The Wildcats held Wisconsin to its lowest scoring output of the year, falling 24-15.

It’ll be an interesting test for the high-flying Ohio State offense, which has faced little resistance in its 6-0 start to the year.

Day was also complimentary of Fitzgerald during his weekly radio show. He said Fitzgerald fired off a congratulatory text to Day after the B1G Championship Game last December, a game Ohio State won over Northwestern 45-24.

“Just a classy guy,” Day said. “A guy you want to play for and work with.”

Friday night will mark the first time the two teams have played in the regular season since 2016. That meeting was won by the Buckeyes 24-20 in Columbus. OSU also leads the all-time series 62-14-1, and has won seven straight over the Wildcats, dating back to 2005.