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Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | December 1, 2018

Ohio State-Northwestern: Prediction, preview for Big Ten Championship Game

Ohio State needs style points. The No. 6 Buckeyes play No. 21 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game, hoping to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee. Here's how we predict the game.

A simple win against a ranked Wildcats team might not be enough. Ohio State might have to show off in order to win a possible Ohio State-or-Oklahoma debate.

Ohio State-Northwestern: Prediction, preview for Big Ten Championship

On paper, Ohio State is the monster favorite going in.

Some lingering doubts about the Buckeyes remain.

MORE: College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings

But in the 62-39 rout of rival and then-No. 4 Michigan, Dwayne Haskins passed for 396 yards and six touchdowns as Ohio State roughed up what was a dominant Michigan defense.

Haskins is the Buckeyes' top Heisman hopeful, but he doesn't do it alone. Mike Weber rushed for 96 yards and a score on only 13 attempts and Parris Campbell schooled the Wolverines with six catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns.

There will be questions about Ohio State's defense no matter what, but the same issue is even more obvious with Oklahoma.

If the Sooners atone for their only loss this season by beating Texas, Ohio State will have to somehow jump a team that also has a top 25 win in the final game of the regular season. It won't be easy.

But something similar has happened already.

In 2014, Ohio State was No. 5 and routed No. 13 Wisconsin 59-0 to win the Big Ten title. TCU was ranked third and beat Iowa State 55-3, but the Horned Frogs dropped three spots to sixth in the final CFP poll.

MORE: College Football Playoff selection show time, TV information

If Oklahoma wins big against Texas, it will be hard to see Ohio State jumping the Sooners. But stranger things have happened.

Of course, Northwestern could also surprise. At 8-4, a first glance might not be too encouraging if you're looking for reasons of predicting a Wildcats stunner.

But since a 1-3 start, which included a close loss to Michigan, the Wildcats have road wins against Michigan State and Iowa and trailed No. 3 Notre Dame by only 3 late in the fourth quarter.

Ohio State-Northwestern: How they compare

Ohio State Stat/Leader Northwestern
43.3 Points per game 23.7
25.8 Points allowed 21.7
543.9 Yards per game 351.8
398.8 Yards allowed 372.7

Dwayne Haskins
4,081 yards (42 TDs, 7 INTs)

Passing yards Clayton Thorson
2,675 yards (14 TDs, 12 INTs)
J.K. Dobbins
961 yards, 8 TDs
Rushing yards Isaiah Bowser
736 yards, 6 TDs
Parris Campbell
903 yards, 11 TDs
Receiving yards Flynn Nagel
746 yards, 2 TDs

How Ohio State could win: The Buckeyes don't need the defense to suddenly become top-10 great to beat the Wildcats. But it will need to make some stops.

However, if there are enough possessions in the game, it's hard seeing how the Wildcats could keep pace with Haskins and the Ohio State attack. If the Buckeyes score early, the train will be tough to stop.

How Northwestern could win: Ignore statistics. Northwestern is outscoring foes by only two points per game and is minus-20.9 in yards per game. The Wildcats can easily "ugly" this game up, keep it close late and then pull it out somehow.

Ohio State-Northwestern: Score

This is one of those games where common sense says Ohio State wins big. With Oklahoma playing Texas eight hours earlier than the 8 p.m. ET start in Indianapolis, the Buckeyes are in a position to know what exactly they might need to do if they want to make a play on jumping Oklahoma.

The most fun scenario for casual watchers will be if Northwestern scores first and can keep the Ohio State off the field for long stretches.

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Still, the Buckeyes have been in this spot before. Ohio State has too much offense for the upset-minded Wildcats. Hawkins is on a roll, the Buckeyes' running game looks improved and the defense is strong enough to make the stops.

Ohio State 42, Northwestern 21