College GameDay comes back to Evanston, Ill., for the first time since No. 17 Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was there — as the Wildcats' middle linebacker, that is. Northwestern squares off against No. 4 Ohio State in the biggest matchup of the Big Ten in Week 6.
Both teams feature challenging, creative offenses centered around a pair of dynamic quarterbacks. Northwestern's Trevor Siemian is one of the most gifted passers in the conference, while fellow signal-caller Kain Colter is arguably the most versatile player in the Big Ten, spending significant time at QB, running back and wide receiver over the course of a game.
Meanwhile, Ohio State has Heisman candidate Braxton Miller garnering the lion's share of playing time when he's healthy, and for when he's not, Kenny Guiton has been the most dominant backup quarterback in Columbus since Troy Smith was backing up Justin Zwick for reasons undetermined.
Rankings and records: Ohio State is cruising at 5-0 (1-0) and No. 4 in the polls, and it boasts a monstrous 59-14-1 record over the Wildcats. Even that record is misleadingly close; Northwestern has defeated Ohio State just once in the last 40 years, a 33-27 overtime thriller in 2004. And yet here's Northwestern at No. 17 and 4-0 on the year and looking as ready as ever to take on the Buckeyes.
Vegas: Ohio State is favored by 5.5 points. The over-under is set at 61.5 points.
Weather: Low 60s at kickoff with an 80 percent chance of rain.
Three names to know
Urban Meyer's still undefeated at Ohio State, and 17-0 is literally as good as a coach could have done at this point. If Meyer's not the best coach in the Big Ten, it'd be Pat Fitzgerald, who's still only 38 and has the Northwestern program at its highest point since its miraculous mid-90s run under Gary Barnett.
During the game, keep an eye on the safety position for Ohio State. Christian Bryant went down with a broken ankle on the second-to-last play of the game against Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes need to choose between Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown (not to be confused with Corey "Philly" Brown, the star wideout — hence the nicknames), nickel back Tyvis Powell and five-star freshman stud Vonn Bell for Bryant's replacement. Whoever steps into that role should be prepared: Northwestern's likely to target him as a weak point in the Buckeye defense until he proves otherwise.
Two things at stake
Ohio State is still in the BCS national championship hunt, and it has absolutely no margin for error with a comparatively light schedule. Northwestern is one of the Buckeyes' toughest opponents, and Ohio State needs to get the W if it wants to aspire to destinations greater than Pasadena.
Meanwhile, if Northwestern can get the win here, its Big Ten slate is set up for a division title run and its first trip to Indianapolis for a Big Ten Championship Game berth. If the 'Cats take the L, though, they're right back in the muck of a Legends Division race that will probably hang at least two losses on its eventual champion. Also, beating a top-five team in front of the home fans would probably be pretty cool.
How to witness
TV: ABC is covering the game at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox are on the call.
Online streaming: ESPN3 will carry the game.