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Buckeyes take to the road

• OSU travels to ranked Northwestern

October 4, 2013
By SETH STASKEY - Buckeye Blitz ( , Times Leader

New week, new challenge.

Such is life for the Ohio State Buckeyes when the Big Ten schedule commences.

The challenges are even greater, however, when they're on the road in a hostile atmosphere with the eyes of the nation firmly planted on it with a national television audience set to watch the 8 p.m. kickoff.

The Buckeyes make the trek to suburban Chicago this week to take on nationally ranked and highly regarded Northwestern in Evanston.

While the challenges might get stiffer and the pressure grows after each passing victory, it's just what Buckeyes' players expect when they sign their national letters of intent to come to Ohio State.

"The best thing about being 5-0 is a chance to go 6-0," Meyer said during his weekly press conference. "We've got a really difficult game coming up, another night game, and I hear (ESPN's) Game Day is going to be there, so it should be a heck of an atmosphere so we look forward to this challenge."

Coming off last week's 31-24 victory against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes' season hits its midway point against the Wildcats, who are ranked 15th nationally.

The Buckeyes came out of the gates strong once again last week, which is what Meyer seeks week-in and week-out. However, they may have taken their foot off the gas late in the game and became a little more conservative in the second half.

However, the Buckeyes, who owned a three-score lead at a juncture of the second half, won the game, which is always priority number one regardless of what people believe about the perception of style points with the poll voters.

"We were playing to win, which is field position football," Meyer said. "Every time we had the ball, it was near midfield and we have a very good punter and punt team. I trust our guys going to down that ball and we're going to make them drive 90 yards."

Again, the plan to win has proven to work. Actually, it's worked now 17 straight games since Meyer was hired as the head coach. That's the longest streak in the nation.

On top of earning the victory, it was also a very solid return to the starting lineup for quarterback Braxton Miller. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran 22 times for 83 yards and was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his exploits.

"I thought the preparation for the game was one of the best (Miller's) had," Meyer said.

"His practice was one of the best he's had as far as Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are concerned. I thought his accuracy on the deep ball was outstanding."

The Buckeyes' offense was sharp in the passing game, but Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have spent much of this week trying to figure out how they're going to better utilize Jordan Hall, who despite a huge first four games only carried the ball once for 5 yards against the Badgers.

"Jordan has got to be involved," Meyer said. "That was a decision we kind of made. We thought and we knew it was going to be very hard to run in there the way they play their defensive line."

So, needing the power game, the Buckeyes turned to senior Carlos Hyde, who was playing in just his second game since his return from suspension. He ran for 85 yards.

It's actually getting to the point where Meyer and Herman are spending more time figuring out who they're going to utilize on offense. Not only do you have Miller, Hall and Hyde. There's Philly Brown, Devin Smith, Chris Fields, Evan Spencer, Dontre Wilson and tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannet to get involved, or at least try to, in some capacity.

"It's awesome that we have that many guys to use," Meyer said. "It's as difficult as the other one where you don't have the puzzle pieces of the checkerboard that you like, and we have several."

The Buckeyes should have opportunities to score points again this week against a Wildcats' defense that's ranked 87th in total defense, allowing 427 yards a game. They're giving up more than 308 yards a game through the air and the 23.8 points a game they allow ranks 52nd nationally.

One area the Wildcats' pass defense has shined is in getting picks. Northwestern has intercepted 10 passes and took four of those back for touchdowns.

The defensive unit is led by Gahanna native Chi Chi Ariguzo, who has 35 tackles. Junior safety Ibraheim Campbell leads the team and ranks fifth nationally with three interceptions.

An aspect to keep in mind is that the Wildcats are coming off a bye-week, meaning they've had two weeks to prepare for Ohio State. The last time they took the field was on Sept. 21 for a 35-21 victory against Maine.

"Some people say bye weeks don't matter, you'll never hear me say that," Meyer said. "Bye weeks are very important. Matter of fact, if I was scheduling, I'd almost try to put it where, you know, against a team that you deal with injury and fatigue."

Injury definitely became an issue for the Buckeyes last week. Late in the game, OSU lost senior safety Christian Bryant for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle.

Battling for that job are Cory "Pittsburgh" Brown, Tyvis Powell and frosh Vonn Bell.

The Buckeyes' front seven has been playing well and will need to once again this wek against a Wildcats' squad that ranks 18th nationally running the ball at 249.5 yards a game. One of the more challenging options that Northwestern provides is the use of a two-quarterback system.

"They're good players," Meyer said of senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian. "It's a very myriad offense. There are a lot of similarities to the two offenses. They're well coached and they're schematically very good."

Colter has started all four games thus far. He has 264 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also has 237 rushing yards.

Siemian has thrown for 671 yards and four touchdowns. The Northwestern offense has been missing one of its key cogs since its first game of the season. Venric Mark hasn't played since the game at Cal.

The Ohio State defense received solid play from Ryan Shazier, who was last week's defensive player of the game. Meyer also spoke out about the play of Adolphus Washington, who returned to the lineup for the first time in two weeks. Also grading out highly were Michael Bennett and C.J. Barnett.



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