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Northern Illinos Huskies vs. Ohio State Buckeyes football: Q&A with Land Grant Holy Land

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Northern Illinois heads to Columbus, Ohio to take on the #1 ranked Buckeyes this Saturday. We went to the number one source for Buckeye football coverage to let us know what's in store for the Huskies.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For only the third time in the history of the NIU football program, the team faces the number one ranked team in the country. The 2-0 Huskies face the 2-0 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus at 3:30 EST. The last time NIU faced the nation's top ranked team was back in 2006. That opponent also happened to be Ohio State.

The 2006 Huskies were easily handled by the Buckeyes 35-12. The lone bright spot for the Huskies was the stellar performance of star half back Garrett Wolfe. Wolfe rushed for 171 yards as well as an additional 114 yards receiving .

Will this years Huskie manage to do any better than the '06 squad? I couldn't really say - so I asked Chris Kopech @ckopech of Land Grant Holy Land, SB Nation's Ohio State blog, how he sees this game.

Hustle Belt: Cardale Jones is a monster-sized, mobile QB with an incredibly powerful arm. If you had to scheme to defend him, would you try to force him into more throws or into more runs?

LGHL: That's the fun thing about this Ohio State offense - just when you think you know how to defend a monster like Cardale Jones, he has a different way of beating you. Against Virginia Tech this year, his arm/cannon did the job. But go back a game before that, against Oregon, and he literally ran over Duck defenders. Jones made them pay, usually turning what would otherwise be a three-yard gain, into seven- or 10-yarders. So your questions is very difficult to answer, and I'm glad I'm not the guy on NIU's payroll tasked with answering it.

What I will say is that Jones has looked, with a small sample size, granted, less like the runner he was in his three games as starter last year. So line up a few in the box (you're going to anyway because of Ezekiel Elliott) and hope that the Husky tasked with doing the tackling goes low and holds on for dear life.

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Hustle Belt: The Ohio State offensive line returns four starters, two of which are all-americans, and is expected to be one of the best in the country. Coach Meyer sounded disappointed in their play last week versus Hawaii. Did the Buckeye's line play sub par or did Hawaii's 3-4 scheme find something to exploit?

LGHL: Meyer didn't pull any punches, and said the slobs definitely didn't slob as they were expected to based on prior games and reputation. I have a few thoughts (read: rationalizations) as to why:

First, let's go back a year. After playing Navy, the Buckeyes famously lost to Virginia Tech. A surprising lot of teams had something in common with Ohio State - after playing (and therefore game-planning) for the Midshipmen, the next game was a loss seven times in 10: Ohio State, Texas State, Western Kentucky, Air Force, San Jose State, Notre Dame, South Alabama were all losers post-Navy, while Temple, Rutgers and Georgia Southern were the only winners. Navy's triple option is always tough to adjust to, but adjusting out of it is sometimes even more difficult. Seven teams know what I'm talking about.

Ohio State spent an off-season gearing up for playing offense against a GRRRRR BUD FOSTER BEAR DEFENSE GRRRRRRR so adjusting back to a somewhat normal scheme, may have made things a bit difficult on the O-line. Doing so on a short week couldn't have helped too much with that, either.

Or maybe one of the best offensive lines in the country laid an egg and had a letdown game. In the end it is still tough to complain about a 38-0 win at home; welcome to Ohio State football in 2015.

Hustle Belt: The Buckeye's have started slow offensively this young season; even being down to Virginia Tech at half. They've managed 28 first half points through two games as opposed to 52 points in the second half. I have to believe NIU would be thrilled to see only 14 points on the board for OSU at the half. Have the slow starts been a concern for the Buckeyes?

LGHL: The slow starts are concerning only because they have not been normal under Meyer. In years past the first quarter has been the Buckeyes' best quarter, and putting opponents into an early hole makes for easier sledding the rest of the way. Not so this year. Down at the half against VaTech, and only up 14-0 on Hawai'i wasn't ideal in the best case scenario. In two games thus far, however, it hasn't been an issue, as the second half has been almost doubly as productive as the first half.

Ohio State's offense has a lot of different things going on this year: Braxton Miller's move to H-Back, Elliott starting the season high up on Heisman watch lists, and a Shakespearean quarterback battle chief among them. It's quite possible that the offense is just looking to find a stride to hit, and hasn't done so until the second half of games. The schedule should provide a few opportunities to do that a bit earlier between Saturday and a date with Michigan State later in the year.

Hustle Belt: NIU's been pretty suspect on defense against the pass so far through two games. OSU has been a more run-oriented offense. Can we expect the Buckeyes to open up their aerial attack up?

LGHL: In two games thus far, Ohio State put 393 net passing yards on the board, or 13.1 yards/completion. For rushing, the numbers are 542 total yards, or 6.3 yards/rush. We know Meyer wants to run the ball into oblivion because successful running means controlling the game. And the running options are incredible: Elliott, Bri'onte Dunn, Miller, Curtis Samuel, Jalin Marshall on the occasional jet sweep, etc. If the O-line has a more Virginia Tech game and a less Hawai'i game, then I think running the ball will still be the order of the day.

Also, the weather on Saturday (at press) calls for scattered storms in the afternoon. A Cardale Jones pass could probably go through a brick wall, nevermind a gust of wind, but with all of that, I think the emphasis will be on controlling the game and having Elliott and company get a lot of touches.

But take heed: if you put seven or eight in the box, that means that one of the two quarterbacks will have one of the several great wide receivers in man or single coverage. In that case, watch out for those big passing plays.

Hustle Belt: Star defensive end Joey Bosa was suspended for the season opener. He played in game two but did not appear to make much of an impact on the stat sheet. Is any of this due to his troubles or was he just not needed last week?

LGHL: A corollary: In the NFL, a wide receiver like Calvin Johnson typically draws the best corner to cover him, and usually a lot of safety help just in case. Megatron is a known commodity in the NFL, and NFL defenses know he needs extra care when he's on the field. Joey Bosa is a known commodity in the NCAA and because of that he has to battle the best offensive lineman and, usually, a blocking running back or tight end just to ensure he doesn't disrupt the play. You try getting on a stat sheet with 550+ pounds standing in your way.

But to answer the question, he really hasn't been needed, because his counterparts have stepped up in huge ways. Vonn Bell and Eli Apple are shutdown defensive players, with noses for the ball and an appetite for big hits. Tyvis Powell is my favorite defender both on and off the field. Gareon Conley is starting to come into his own in a stacked defensive backfield. Ohio State has a lot of ways to make life hell for offensive coordinators, and Bosa is meerly one of them.


Hustle Belt: The Huskies best offensive play has been quarterback Drew Hare to big-play wide receiver Kenny Golladay. NIU will need some big-play scores in Columbus, as sustained drives will be a tall test. Has the Buckeyes secondary been susceptible to deep balls or have they been stingy?

LGHL: Against Virginia Tech, there were some notable...let's call them lapses by the defensive backfield. My favorite was when a Hokie FULLBACK juked Eli Apple for a touchdown.  Shown here, because we have to learn from our mistakes.

Hawaii was a different story, and guys like Powell and Bell were the big reason why. The backfield duo go together like chocolate and peanut butter (#sp) and ball-hawk like you'd expect from veteran playmakers. NIU needs to make big plays, and the possibility is always there. But the odds are probably a bit better that the aforementioned safeties, with Conley and Apple included, will shut it down.

Hustle Belt: We know the OSU fans expect a win against NIU, but what sort of score will will they consider to be acceptable? Be honest, our fans thrive on disrespect.

LGHL: Hey, I'm a former MAC-er myself, a graduate of Miami University (back-to-back worst team in the country LOVE AND HONOR!) and I've seen firsthand the kind of disrespect that Ohio State can levy on a MAC team. But NIU is a good MAC team, and better than Hawai'i (NIU F/+ ranking: 59. Hawai'i: 110). Despite that, the hotel builders in Vegas say Ohio State gives NIU 31.5 points, over/under 64.5.

Typically I leave the betting questions to LGHL's own BLeez, but you asked and I'll answer. And acceptable score will be in the 40s for sure, so let's say 45 (Jack Willoughby needs to have something to do other than kick PATs). NIU is probably not getting shutout, so lets give the Huskies a score or two. Final score 48-14, which, for entertnment purposes only, means Buckeyes cover, and hit the under. Please don't go bet on that prediction! It will not be right! Save your money!

A big thanks to Chris Kopech @ckopech and Land Grant Holy Land for clearing these things up for us.