Northwestern’s offense seemed to find stability in the last half of the season due to the rise of freshman running back Isaiah Bowser, but Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said that didn’t take away from the main focus as the Buckeyes prepared for the Wildcats on Saturday night.

“I think everything starts and ends with their quarterback,” Schiano said.

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He referred to senior Clayton Thorson, who with 10,223 career passing yards, is 357 shy of Northwestern record-holder Brett Basanez’s 10,580.

“The guy has got 51 straight starts,” Schiano said. “He’s a (future) NFL quarterback, so we need to make sure we understand how that fits into their entire offense.”

By that, he meant the 6-foot-4 Thorson, blessed with a strong arm, isn’t leery about trying to throw the ball through tight windows. It’s one of the reasons that, while throwing for 2,675 and 14 touchdowns this season, he has also given up 12 interceptions.

“He’s a very accurate passer,” Schiano said. “He understands scheme very well. You’re not going to trick him with coverages and things like that. Although he’s thrown 12 interceptions, he’s very, very smart with the football. Not all of (the interceptions) are he got tricked and threw a pick. Some of them are tipped balls. It’s not all what you would think.”

What one would think is Thorson poses yet another challenge for the Ohio State defense, which despite a 62-39 win over Michigan last week, was guilty of five pass-interference calls.

Now toss in the probable nothing-to-lose approach by Thorson and the Wildcats, who have advanced to the league title game for the first time, and remember that Thorson led Northwestern to the brink of an upset against Ohio State two years ago before falling 24-20 at Ohio Stadium.

“I thought he was a fine player two years ago when we played ’em,” Schiano said. “He’s had a knee surgery since, and a bunch of wins since. He’s a good player.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports