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Predictions: Northwestern vs. Ohio State

For the first week this season, some of our analysts are picking a Northwestern loss. It's a 4 to 2 split in favor of Ohio State, but Nate Williams and Jon Davis are high on the Wildcats.

Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

I think NU comes out fully of energy and gets a quick, easy score, thanks to some nice runs from Venric Mark/Kain Colter and some timely passes over the middle to Christian Jones. However, the Buckeyes will settle in and this will be a back-and-forth game until halftime. After halftime, Ohio State will grab a small lead, and while NU will do its best to keep up, the Wildcats won't be able to pull even with OSU again, as the Buckeyes score a late touchdown to seal a double-digit win. The only way NU can win this game is by having its most efficient offensive game yet while tiring out the OSU defense — that seems to be the plan. It's possible, but still a tough task.

Ohio State 45, Northwestern 34

Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)

If this game came one week after the Syracuse game, I would have been inclined to predict a much closer score line – or maybe even pick the Wildcats outright. But after watching the way Western Michigan and Maine outplayed Northwestern for certain lengths, I lost confidence in the Wildcats’ ability to match up physically with Ohio State. I still think Northwestern will keep it close well into the fourth quarter, and with a couple of turnovers, maybe a few lucky bounces, it’s not crazy – not at all – to think the Wildcats can pull off the upset.

But I wouldn’t bet on it. The improvement along Ohio State’s defensive line in recent weeks, including its shutdown performance against Wisconsin’s vaunted run game, makes me think the Buckeyes will not only be able to control Northwestern’s rushing attack, but render it almost completely ineffective. That could leave Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian to try and win a shootout with one of the nation’s most improved passers, Braxton Miller. Again, I think Northwestern will hang tough for most of the game, but Ohio State’s superior athleticism and better overall talent are too significant to brush aside. Upset designs and all, the Wildcats will fall short of toppling Ohio State.

Ohio State 34, Northwestern 21

Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

We've been talking about this game for so long, it almost seems as though it's already been played, doesn't it? I can't even imagine the excitement level in Evanston rising any higher, but it no doubt will, starting with the Mike and Mike broadcast this morning, the homecoming activities tonight, and College GameDay tomorrow. And then, finally: game time. No more build-up. No more speculation. Just two well-coached teams going head-to-head, with the winner likely to be crowned the favorite to win the Big Ten. So will the match live up to the hype?

Ohio State has shown very few weaknesses so far this year. They took care of one potential road block, Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes’ starting QB, Braxton Miller, eliminated any doubts that he would be hindered by a knee injury that kept him out of two games this season. It’s a tough assignment for a Northwestern secondary that has given up its fair share of big plays this season. Even if NU manages to curtail the passing threat, Miller can take off at any time—he ran for 83 yards last week against the Badgers despite the return from a knee injury. The Wildcats haven’t faced a mobile quarterback of his caliber yet this season, but they have struggled at times to read play action plays.

Northwestern’s offense has yet to put together four solid quarters of play, but they’ve shown flashes of brilliance that indicate a breakout game is forthcoming. Plus, all signs point to the return of running back Venric Mark, who played only one game this season before going down with a “lower body injury.” He may need a little time to readjust after sitting out for over a month, but getting back arguably the most important offensive weapon on the team is never a bad thing.

Needless to say, this game will not be lacking points. So the question is, can the Northwestern offense keep up, and can its defense do just enough, to squeak out potentially the biggest win in program history? The Wildcats have had a trend of game-changing defensive takeaways this year, so never say never, but I’m going to err on the safe side and say they’ll fall just short. But they’ll play well enough to prove to the country that this truly is a new era of Northwestern football.

Ohio State 38, Northwestern 34

Josh Rosenblat (@JMRosenblat)

The reason this game is so hard to predict is because we have yet to see the “real” Northwestern offense. With Venric Mark only playing sparingly in the opener, there is no real way to measure his potential impact on offense. He could be 100 percent and have a huge game, or he could be slowed a bit and be somewhat ineffective. There is just no way to know. Besides Mark’s effectiveness, the biggest key for Northwestern will be the battle between Braxton Miller and the Wildcat linebackers. Miller, an athletic and mobile quarterback, stresses defenses by forcing them out of position on scrambles and play-action. The only way Northwestern has a chance to slow down the Buckeye offense is for the linebackers to stay disciplined and maintain their lanes. A tough task lies ahead for Northwestern. I think Ohio State wins this game, but not without a fight. Remember, this game doesn’t have a major impact on Northwestern’s ability to get to the Big Ten Championship because Ohio State is a non-division opponent. Northwestern should scare the Buckeyes just enough to make them worry if they have to face each other again in Indianapolis.

Ohio State 42, Northwestern 34

Nate Williams (@BigEasyCat44)

It's rightfully the biggest game of post '95 NU history. I think it is also a very favorable matchup for us. OSUs big guys up front on both sides don't scare me but their athletes behind them do. I think  we see a lot of new wrinkles happen on both sides of NU. We get our biggest weapon back and bode a well rested team.

I think DC Mike Hankwitz puts together a stellar plan together to stop the OSU running attack and pressure Miller into poor throws. Offensively if we play efficient football we win this game. I expect to see Kain Colter all over the field and a big game out of Venric though he may only get 15 touches. You have to like the down field pass option with this secondary being depleted. I think both QBs spread the wealth to all our receivers.

This game is going to come down to one big special teams play or turnover, but I'm going to make a bold bold prediction.

Northwestern 48, Ohio State 35. You heard it first.

Jon Davis (@NUHighlights)

Oh boy. It's that time of the year when individual game predictions start to clash with end-of-season record predictions. If these two team play ten times, Ohio State probably wins at least six. But what the hell, 'Cats by a FG. Don't ask me how.

Northwestern 37, Ohio State 34