Take advantage of the speed advantage

Ohio State has a clear edge here. But Northwestern's defense plays to its strengths and does a good job masking its weaknesses. It won’t primarily use man-to-man coverage, as Michigan did — and failed. The Wildcats will play zone coverage, keep the ball in front of them and try to force Ohio State to be methodical instead of explosive.

 

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Do it again on defense

It might have been the best 39-point defensive performance in recent Ohio State history. The Buckeyes didn’t shut down Michigan last week, but they made key stops, got turnovers and forced the Wolverines to earn every yard. The front seven was dominant. The linebackers’ play was a particularly welcomed development. The Buckeyes must be just as sound against Northwestern, and they need to get the secondary to do its part.

Be patient but opportunistic

With Northwestern content to be mostly a bend-but-don’t break defense, Dwayne Haskins Jr. must resist the temptation to force things. He has been good at that this season, and that must continue. But explosiveness is a key to the Buckeyes' offense, and they must strike when they can. Great teams assert their will, and if Ohio State truly is one, it will.

Win with style

The Buckeyes are playing two games in one. Not only do they have to beat Northwestern to win the Big Ten title, but they also have to impress the College Football Playoff committee in the process. The committee will have watched Oklahoma vs. Texas, and if the Sooners win, Ohio State must make its case that it’s more worthy than Oklahoma. The Buckeyes defense in particular will be under the microscope. If that unit looks like it did most of the year, the Buckeyes could be on the outside looking in. Style points definitely matter.

 

— Bill Rabinowitz / brabinowitz@dispatch.com / @brdispatch