Ohio State's nail-biting loss at Penn State last week was unfortunate, but it doesn't nearly knock the No. 6 Buckeyes out of the College Football Playoff picture. In fact, the Buckeyes still control their own Playoff destiny – but they'll almost certainly need to win every game they play for the rest of the season. That starts on Saturday.
Based on a head-to-head loss, Ohio State's currently behind Penn State in the Big Ten East, sort of, as both teams have one loss. But if Ohio State wins out and beats Michigan in a season-ending game at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes still win the division, regardless of whether Penn State keeps winning. That's how the Big Ten's rules work.
Northwestern started the season dismally, but the Wildcats have been a lot better of late. They're riding a three-game winning streak that's brought them to 4-3, and they're now likelier than not to reach bowl eligibility. They aren't, however, likely to beat Ohio State in Columbus.
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. The broadcasters are Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, and Tom Luginbill.
Radio: Northwestern and Ohio State
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: The Buckeyes are favored by about four touchdowns.
Make friends: Get to SB Nation's team blog chats for this game at Inside NU (for Wildcats fans) and Land-Grant Holy Land (for Buckeyes fans).
Three big things to know
1. Last week, the Buckeyes' offensive efficiency just abandoned them. This offense is one of the better ones in the sport, but it's hard to explain exactly what went wrong in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions surprisingly controlled the line of scrimmage, for sure, and J.T. Barrett wasn't as rhythmic as he normally is. The Buckeyes ran successful plays that kept them moving toward first downs or touchdowns on just 29 percent of their snaps, compared to a seasonal average of 48 percent. It was a precipitous drop, and we'll see if that's all it was.
2. Northwestern's offense is bad, but the Cats can play a bit of defense. There's just not much going on when Northwestern has the ball. Junior running back Justin Jackson has talent, but NU still doesn't move the ball efficiently or explosively on the ground. Quarterback Clayton Thorson is decent when he keeps things simple, but he's not going to beat Ohio State over the top. To score points, Northwestern needs to consistently get middling gains and pick up first downs methodically. Against this defense, good luck with that.
3. Ohio State's dominance of Northwestern is staggering. This isn't shocking, I guess, because Ohio State's long been an elite program and Northwestern has, um, not. But let's just say Ohio State's won five in a row 29 of the last 30 games against Northwestern, plus that these teams have played each other almost every year since the 1930s. It's been bad. Any Northwestern win against Ohio State is a genuinely earth-shattering event.