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Northwestern vs. Ohio State: week 6 gameday study guide

At Northwestern’s Monday press conference, quarterback Kain Colter said the following about the Ohio State game. “I’m not going to lie, this is a game circled on my schedule.” The senior followed with a “just because I haven’t played them before” disclaimer, but I think we can all identify – or at least try to identify -- with what Colter really meant: this is a big, big game, bigger than any Northwestern has played since Pat Fitzgerald took over as head coach in 2006.

College Gameday is in town. ESPN’s nationally syndicated morning show, Mike and Mike, aired live from Deering Meadow Friday morning. Alumni based far and wide will descend upon Evanston. Math and engineering students will, with great reluctance, power down their calculators and watch football – or maybe just resort to tabulating game statistics, which we can all agree is a step in the right direction. There will be more eyeballs, and more national media attention, than this group of Northwestern players has ever experienced.

On Saturday night, at 7 pm CT, the Wildcats face the definition of a “statement” game against AP No. 4 Ohio State. Beating the Buckeyes would make Northwestern the clear frontrunner in the Legends Division; a loss would reinforce the common perception that the rest of the Big Ten still has a ways to go before catching up to Ohio State. Neither outcome would be devastating or season-defining: Northwestern still has a rigorous slate of division games to play, including two in November against Nebraska and Michigan – to say nothing of the road game at bye-week-rested (Leaders foe) Wisconsin one week after the OSU game.

This is a huge opportunity for Northwestern, and a chance to measure how Fitzgerald’s promising program measures up against a bona fide national championship contender. Win or lose, though, the Wildcats’ ultimate goal – winning a Big Ten championship – will not be decided this week. None of which is to understate the fact that Saturday night’s game is a massively important occasion. The implications of a win – for perception, the Legends Division race, and otherwise – this early in the season are impossible to measure. This much is certain: they will be big.

Big games call for big, long-winded gameday study guide introductions. I won’t make you wait any longer. Here’s some reading material to pore over in advance of Saturday night.

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The most interesting game of the season to date is, predictably, accompanied by the most interesting selection of picks from the InsideNU panel.

A recap of our pre-Gameday, Gameday coverage. Confused? Don't be: we have pictures and interesting comments from Gameday producer Lee Fitting. Stay tuned for more Gameday coverage Saturday.

Our weekly allotment of press conference and practice notes: Monday press conference notes, Tuesday practice notes, Big Ten conference call notes, Wednesday practice Notes.

Some quick analysis on this week's depth chart.

Bowl season is a long way off, but even at this early date, it's never too soon to look ahead to December/January. Which bowl will the Wildcats play in this season?

How can Northwestern’s offense exploit Ohio State’s defense? Here’s a detailed visual breakdown that should offer a few clues.

There’s plenty of reading to do on the Buckeyes before Saturday night. We compiled the most interesting OSU-related reading we could find in one handy page of links.

A look back on Northwestern's wild victory over Ohio State in 2004 from Mike Deneen, InsideNU's resident football historian.

Some multimedia comment to complement our written content: a podcast and video analysis to preview Saturday night's big game.

Many believe Ohio State is superior in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. That’s easy to say from afar; we dig deeper and analyze each phase in our “Who had the edge” feature.

This probably goes without saying, but Northwestern’s game against Ohio State – despite all the coach speak and measured player dialogue suggesting otherwise – is not “just another game.”

Why hosting gameday on the LakeFill makes a lot of sense.

One of Northwestern’s key defensive players will miss Saturday’s game. Find out who in this week’s injury report notes.

In the waning moments of Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin last Saturday, starting safety Christian Bryant suffered an ankle injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the reason. Losing Bryant is a huge blow to the Buckeyes’ defense.

The last time Northwestern football received this much media attention was....well, never?

After weeks of sitting out with a lower body injury, senior running back Venric Mark will make his return Saturday. What kind of impact can he have on Northwestern’s offense?

ESPN Gameday reporter Samantha Ponder spoke with InsideNU this week about a number of topics – from her experience on college football’s best pregame show to the method behind Lee Corso’s famous mascot head selection to Northwestern’s chances of hanging with Ohio State Saturday night.

This bit of news may have slipped by you amidst the overflow of football coverage this week: Northwestern hoops will play its first open scrimmage Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena, hours before Saturday night’s kickoff. Our Josh Rosenblat touches on a few storylines to look out for as the Wildcats hone in on their preseason preparation.