I would not want to be Northwestern when it faces Ohio State this weekend
I would not want to be the Northwestern Wildcats right now.
I mean, think about the countless motivators in play for Ohio State to just explode against the Wildcats in Saturday’s B1G title game.
The Buckeyes have plenty of reasons to be fired up:
Start with the conference
Sure, I understand the B1G called a mulligan and changed the rules so the Buckeyes could make the conference title game. And they should have. It was the right decision.
Because the conference administrators would have never been in that position if they’d waited. Instead of making the rushed decision to cancel fall football, they could have waited, watched what happened in other leagues and evaluated then. But they didn’t. They canceled, and administrators said they would not revisit the decision.
Flash forward six weeks. The conference revisits the decision. It decides to play, but it does so with no bye weeks, and no other buffer weeks built in — something other conferences did just in case there was a need to make up a game.
So the B1G started late, and only played conference games. And then COVID took over. Gone was a possibly really fun game against Maryland, and another against Illinois. Then the virus cancelled the one game all Buckeyes players want to play the most — the game the schools had played for more than 100 consecutive seasons — the game against Michigan. Frustration set in.
So games got canceled, and you know how that went: There were no make-up games, which not only meant the conference would have to change its rules to get the Buckeyes into the B1G championship, but it was even more harmful for Ohio State because it drastically reduced its national visibility. College Football Playoff officials noted it was easier to evaluate other teams if … wait for it … if they’d played more games! It makes sense, doesn’t it?
So yes, Ohio State has reasons to be angry — at the conference and at COVID. And there’s only one team they can take their frustrations out on.
But there’s more …
Ohio State’s place in the Playoff isn’t certain
In fact, some think the Buckeyes need to win big, to prove to the committee that they belong. Vegas even has Ohio State as 20-point favorites.
So they’re going to want to impress the Playoff committee. What does that mean? First off, it means the offense must light up the scoreboard. And it probably also means they need to win by more than that 20-point spread.
Last year, the Buckeyes played an injury-riddled Northwestern team and smoked them in Evanston, 52-3. The teams also matched up in the 2018 B1G Championship Game, where Ohio State was a 16.5-point favorite, and the Buckeyes won going away, 45-24.
Ohio State will want to cement their place in the top four. Again, there’s only one way to do it — thrash Northwestern.
But still, that’s not all …
They still have the doubters
Even though the Buckeyes remain national darlings, they’ve still heard the doubters this season. Ask the defense about all they’ve heard regarding second-half collapses. Or about how the secondary can’t hang with elite offenses.
Ask quarterback Justin Fields about those who questioned his decision-making against Indiana, and then immediately cut him from the Heisman race. Or ask the offensive linemen, who have been constantly questioned about why they’re not better. Lastly, someone please ask two of the best wide receivers in the game how it feels to not be finalists for the Biletnikoff Award.
That last injustice aside, you could say all of those Buckeyes have something to prove.
So yes, Ohio State is going to want to change the minds of those doubters.
And finally …
They’re also going to be playing for history
Never before has a team won four straight outright B1G titles, and you can bet Ohio State wants to be the first.
It goes without saying that they have a lot to play for. In every championship game, there’s a lot on the line, but this team has more. They still have a lot to prove, and a lot of pent-up frustration to let out.
It all adds up to one thing: The recipe is right for a big-time beatdown.
And I would not want to be the Northwestern Wildcats this weekend.