The #4/3 Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) move their Prime Time show from Columbus, OH to Evanston, IL for another 8:00 PM kickoff. The opponents, the undefeated (4-0, 0-0) #16/15 Northwestern Wildcats. Yes, another night game against another ranked B1G team.
When I saw this game on the schedule, I was only mildly concerned about the outcome. And that was based on the 2004 night game debacle in Evanston, not on this year’s talent/performance. Northwestern will be a different challenge from Wisconsin, in that, despite what we saw on Saturday, the Wildcats bring a legitimate balanced offense into this game.
Northwestern has two legitimate quarterbacks in Kain Colter (27-35, 264 yds, 4TD, 2INT)/Trevor Siemian (47-70, 671, 3,2), two quality running backs in Venric Mark (if healthy)/Treyvon Green (101 YPG)and two quality receivers in Tony Jones/Christian Jones (39 Rec, 15 YPR, 5TD). Their offense is also a bit different from Wiscy’s in that rather than relying on raw power, Northwestern brings more speed and elusiveness to the field.
Last year’s all-everything running back Venric Mark appears to be healthy enough to be listed on the Wildcats depth chart as the starting running back for Saturday. This could be a Carlos Hyde situation where a player comes back to play in a big game after a 2-3 game layoff. Whether Venric Mark gets the every down workload remains to be seen, but I expect him to see spot duty in the backfield and to line up as kick/punt returner. Last year, Venric was 2nd team all-conference as a running back, and All-American as a punt returner, so look for Pat Fitzgerald and his staff to put him in positions to handle the ball, particularly in the open field.