COLUMBUS – Ohio State football coach Ryan Day says the Buckeyes’ rare Friday night game this week at Northwestern is something high school coaches don’t like but he hasn’t had a lot of conversations with them about it.
“I haven’t really got much feedback from the guys on that in my conversations one on one with high school coaches. I’m sure they don’t appreciate it but that’s out of our hands, out of our control and there’s not much we can do about it,” Day said Monday at his weekly press conference.
He also downplayed the effects on OSU of playing a day earlier than normal.
“I try not to worry about that. When the schedule comes out we’re going to go play wherever they tell us to play. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that because it’s not really under my control or something I can worry about. When the schedule comes out, we’ll go figure out where they’re at and we’ll go play them. We just start everything a day earlier,” he said.
No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) against Northwestern (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten) is a rematch of last year’s Big Ten championship game, which OSU won 45-24.
But Northwestern has been anything but a championship caliber contender this season, dragged down primarily by a barely functioning offense.
Northwestern has seven starters back from last year’s defense. But even with five returning starters on offense, the Wildcats rank No. 125 nationally in total offense and score only 14.4 points a game.
While OSU quarterback Justin Fields has passed for 16 touchdowns and run for eight more, Northwestern’s entire offense has produced only eight touchdowns – six rushing and two passing.
Hunter Johnson, a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Clemson, started the first four games and Aiden Smith got the start in a 13-10 loss to Nebraska two weeks ago because Johnson had a knee injury. Like Ohio State, Northwestern had last weekend off.
Both of the Northwestern quarterbacks have completed fewer than 50 percent of their passes and they have combined for two touchdowns and eight interceptions. Sidney High School graduate Isaiah Bowser, who led Northwestern in rushing last year as a freshman, has been limited by a knee injury and has not played since a 24-15 loss to Wisconsin on Sept. 28.
Day praised Northwestern’s defense. “They do a tremendous job on defense. It’s hard to find a yard against them. I think they’re a top 30 defense in the country. I believe they held Wisconsin under 300 total yards. I mean, they’re good. They know exactly how you’re trying to attack them. They make adjustments. It’s a defense that’s been around for a long time, and they know exactly what you’re doing
“They’re sound in what they do. (Linebacker) Paddy Fisher is the guy in the middle, kind of keeps everything going. And across the board, there’s guys who have played a lot of football in that group,” he said.
Ohio State has won seven games in a row against Northwestern since the Wildcats’ 33-27 victory in Evanston in 2004. The Buckeyes have won 31 of their last 32 games against Northwestern.
Day warned against looking ahead to the showdown with Wisconsin in two weeks.
“We all know what happens if you start to lose focus, and we cannot do that. So this week we’ve talked about having a white belt mentality, which is a mentality that you’re starting right from scratch and that you don’t take anything for granted, you don’t make any assumptions.
“If we do that, then we’ll be fine. If we start to look ahead or start to let our egos get in the way, then we’re in trouble,” he said.