Ohio State at Northwestern
October 4, 2013
By Brian Edwards
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Matchup: Ohio State Buckeyes at Northwestern Wildcats
Venue: Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois (Grass)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013
Time/TV: 8:00 pm. ET - ABC
Line: Ohio State -7, Over/Under 63
Last Meeting: 2008, Ohio State (-12 ½) 45 at Northwestern 10
Ohio State falls into a dangerous letdown situation Saturday night when it ventures into Evanston to take on Northwestern at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. ABC will provide television coverage.
As of early Friday morning, most books had Ohio St. (5-0 straight up, 3-1-1 against the spread) installed as a seven-point favorite with a total of 61. Gamblers can back the home team on the money line for an attractive +240 payout (risk $100 to win $240). For first-half wagers, the Buckeyes are favored by four with a total of 30 ½.
Urban Meyer’s team is coming off a 31-24 win over Wisconsin as a seven-point home ‘chalk.’ Braxton Miller returned to the lineup after missing back-to-back games and showed no signs of rust. Miller threw four touchdown passes without being intercepted and also ran for 83 yards.
The 55 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 56-point total. However, bettors that took the ‘over’ early in the week at 54 ½ were also victorious.
Northwestern (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS) has had two weeks to prepare for the Buckeyes and it faced a pair of cupcake opponents (Western Michigan and Maine) prior to the open date. The Wildcats will also benefit from the return of star running back and special-teams dynamo Venric Mark.
Mark was a second-team All Big Ten selection as a RB last season and earned first-team All-American honors as a special-teams player. The senior speedster rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 TDs in 2012, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Mark also returned a pair of punts for TDs. He hasn’t played since spraining his ankle in a 44-30 season-opening win at California.
Pat Fitzgerald’s team has won all four of its game by 14 points or more. NU is led by versatile quarterback Kain Colter, who has completed 27-of-35 passes (77.1%) for 264 yards with a 3/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Colter has rushed for 237 yards and three TDs, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
QB Trevor Siemian will also get snaps under center. He has actually played more than Colter this season because Colter got injured at Cal. Siemian has connected on 47-of-70 throws (67.1%) for 671 yards with a 4/2 TD-INT ratio.
Whoever is at QB, he will be aiming for leading receiver Tony Jones, who has 24 receptions for 363 yards and three TDs. Also, Christian Jones has 15 catches for 223 yards and two TDs.
With Mark out, Treyvonn Green has carried the bulk of the rushing load. Green has 404 rushing yards and five TDs, averaging 6.8 YPC.
OSU’s Miller is completing 69.4 percent of his passes with 6/1 TD-INT ratio. Miller can also beat opponents with legs as he’s rushed for 165 yards, averaging 4.1 YPC. Jordan Hall has rushed for 427 yards and eight TDs, averaging 6.2 YPC.
The Buckeyes’ top receiving threats are Devin Smith and Philly Brown. Smith has 20 receptions for 331 yards and five TDs, while Brown has hauled in 24 catches for 254 yards and five scores.
As a road favorite under Urban Meyer, Ohio St. has posted a 1-1 spread record. Northwestern owns a 9-9 ATS ledger as a home underdog with Fitzgerald.
The ‘over’ is 3-2 overall for OSU, 1-0 in its lone road assignment. The ‘under’ has cashed at a 2-1 clip for the NU in its home games.
Ohio St. has won four in a row over Northwestern both SU and ATS. However, these Big Ten rivals haven’t faced each since 2008 when the Buckeyes rolled to an easy 45-10 win as a 12 ½-point road favorite.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--UCLA captured a 34-27 win at Utah on Thursday night to remain undefeated. The Bruins took the cash as six-point road favorites. Brett Hundley had a touchdown catch, pass and run against the Utes.
--Bobby Petrino’s Western Kentucky squad went into Monroe and knocked off an injury-riddled ULM team by a 31-10 count. The Hilltoppers covered the number as seven-point road ‘chalk.’
--Texas escaped Ames with a fortunate and controversial 31-30 victory over Iowa St. On the Longhorns’ game-winning drive at crunch time, there were several critical calls by the officials that went against the Cyclones, who nonetheless hooked up their backers as 7 ½-point home underdogs.
--Steve Spurrier announced earlier this week that the suspension that kept leading receiver Shaq Roland out of last week’s win at UCF is a three-game. Roland, a sophomore who was Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina coming out of high school, will miss Saturday’s home game vs. Kentucky and next week’s game at Arkansas. QB Connor Shaw won’t miss this weekend and will get the starting nod against UK. A shoulder injury sustained against UCF was initially diagnosed as one that would keep Shaw out for 2-3 weeks. However, Shaw has a high tolerance for pain and played nearly all of the 2012 campaign with multiple ailments. Back-up RB Brandon Wilds will miss the next 3-4 weeks due to an elbow injury. The Gamecocks are favored by 21 over the ‘Cats.
--For most of the week, Vanderbilt has been favored by 1 ½ or two points for Saturday’s home game vs. Missouri. But that number moved early Friday and now the Tigers are one-point favorites. Vandy could be without its best pass rusher Walker May, who is ‘questionable’ with a leg injury.
--Stanford OG David Yankey rejoined the team Monday. Yankey, an All-American, didn’t make the trip to Seattle for his team’s win over Washington St. to be with his family following the death of his father last week.
--Ga. Tech starting safety Jamal Golden underwent season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week. The Yellow Jackets were already without their other starting safety, Isaiah Johnson. They are six-point ‘dogs at Miami.
--Paul Pasqualoni and Lame Chafin’ took pink slips last Sunday at UConn and USC, respectively. If Illinois wins at Nebraska, Bo Pelini could join those guys on the unemployment line.
--Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas is ‘doubtful’ at Colorado after spraining his ankle in last week’s 55-16 win over California. With a trip to Washington on deck next weekend, I don’t expect to see Thomas on the field in Boulder.
--Georgia RB Todd Gurley might be the nation’s best running back. He is ‘questionable’ Saturday at Tennessee due to a sprained ankle. But I don’t’ think handicappers should downgrade UGA on account of Gurley’s potential absence. That’s because there is minimal drop-off from Gurley to back-up Keith Marshall, who actually had a better YPC average (6.5) compared to Gurley (6.3) last season.
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