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Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Prediction

Cardale Jones

Cardale Jones

Listless. Lackluster. Sluggish. These are some of the terms and phrases used to describe Ohio State's 38-0 victory over Hawaii. Considering Ohio State was inconsistent offensively against Hawaii, and relied upon its defense and special teams coverage to spark the team to victory, dare I use another term to describe the victory - Tresselball. For those who are curious, former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel will be in attendance in Ohio Stadium on Saturday when Ohio State takes on Northern Illinois, as Tressel will be honored for induction into both the Ohio State Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

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Like Ohio State, Northern Illinois comes into this contest with a 2-0 record, with victories over UNLV (38-30) and Murray State (57-26). This game will mark the second time the Buckeyes and Huskies have played, with the previous game taking place in 2006. Ohio State defeated Northern Illinois 35-12 in the 2006 season opener.

Northern Illinois has a well-deserved reputation for being a giant killer, as the Huskies have defeated several Big Ten teams in their own building. In 2013, Northern Illinois defeated both Iowa (30-27) and Purdue (55-24), on the road and last season did the same to Northwestern (23-15). Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is well aware of Northern Illinois' reputation, as Meyer formerly faced the Huskies when Meyer was the head coach at Bowling Green.

“When you have a team that’s really good on video, it’s all about preparation,” said Meyer on Monday at his weekly press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “Our players will respect them. I don’t anticipate a problem with that. Because they’re good. They’ve beaten Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa, and Minnesota, and they beat — I wouldn’t call those upsets. I think these guys are very good.”

Northern Illinois at Ohio State

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

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TV Channel: ABC/ESPN mirror

Spread: Ohio State -34

Three Things to Watch

1. Ohio State's Emphasis on he Running Game

While Ezekiel Elliott has surpassed 100 yards in both games, the offensive line has struggled in its efforts to establish the dominant performance that was displayed last season during the national championship run. Look for Elliott to be the focus of the Ohio State offensive attack, as Meyer stated that, “The biggest concern is the offensive line gets a lot of credit around here. We are an offensive line-driven, absolutely an offensive line-driven program. Our success over the last three years and two games is because of our offensive line, and with that comes a lot of responsibility. We expect them to play much better.”

2. Better Quarterback Play

Anyone believing a quarterback controversy is brewing at Ohio State may need to place those ideas on the backburner. In his weekly press conference, Meyer stated, "Cardale (Jones) is the starting quarterback," Meyer said. "I met with him yesterday. J.T. (Barrett) has not beaten him out yet. He's going to continue to have opportunities to do that because J.T. is a very good player, and Cardale has got to perform. Neither played that well Saturday, but a lot of it was due to extenuating circumstances about protection. We just didn't play very well."

3. Northern Illinois' Defensive Strategy

Hawaii followed a blueprint of disrupting Ohio State's interior offensive line, with a 3-4 defensive front that the Buckeyes do not routinely face. Anything that works for one program is usually copied or duplicated by another. With a strong defensive line, look for the Huskies to plug the interior lines in an effort to stymie the running game, as the Rainbow Warriors did last Saturday.

Final Analysis

Unlike last week, Ohio State has a full week of preparation that can be devoted to Northern Illinois. Given the Huskies' history of defeating Power 5 programs on the road, Meyer should have little difficulty in getting the attention of his squad this week. Northern Illinois is a talented team, but may not have enough offensive firepower to keep pace with the Buckeyes after the first half.

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Prediction: Ohio State 42, Northern Illinois 17

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.