COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The unbeaten record through five games hardly raises an eyebrow. The top five national ranking seems somewhat mundane. But one quick scan of the Ohio State Buckeyes' stat sheet sends a jolt through the system.
Ohio State, long the bastion of conservative play-calling, a haven for field position tacticians and a place where running the football is the most revered sacrament, is now throwing the ball often -- and with huge success.
The passing Buckeyes - imagine that.
Woody Hayes might be rolling over in his grave and Jim Tressel pacing nervously in his cave, but Ohio State comes into Saturday's showdown with unbeaten Northwestern (8 p.m. ET) averaging nearly 50 points per game, and the majority of those points have come from the passing attack.
Through five games, the Buckeyes have thrown the ball 144 times. They have 14 rushing touchdowns and 19 scores through the air. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who played most of three games while starter Braxton Miller was nursing a sore knee, has 13 touchdown passes. Miller has thrown for six scores, including four touchdown passes in last week's Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.
Eleven different Buckeyes have caught the football so far this season - wideouts, tight ends, slotbacks and running backs among them. And Ohio State likes the home run ball, too. Wide receiver Devin Smith has 15 touchdown receptions in his career, averaging more than 40 yards per score.
Head coach Urban Meyer said throwing with success, and throwing deep when the opportunity is presented, is a skill the Buckeyes have just recently become comfortable with, and one he expects to need to employ against a stout Northwestern defense in Evanston, Ill.
"Now look at how many deep balls our kids get open with, and they can catch and we can throw a deep ball. We couldn't do that last year," Meyer said. "There were games I refused to call it because they were going to be covered and we couldn't throw it.
"Now this Saturday, we are going to try the same thing. That's a big part of who we are. So we would have more explosive pass plays I don't know if I remember this many early in the season, ever."
SERIES HISTORY: Ohio State leads 59-14-1, but these two teams have not met since the 2008 season when the Buckeyes were 45-10 winners.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They are very sound on defense. They are not a radar, bizarre looking defense. It's very sound, and sound defenses at times give up yards, but it's hard to score on very sound defenses because at some point, they are going to force you to make up a mistake. They are not going to give up the big one and they are going to force you to make a mistake." - Meyer on facing Northwestern's defense
Scouting the running game: The Buckeyes have been getting great push up front and the running game has been dominant. Ohio State is averaging 287 yards rushing per game, and 6.3 yards per carry. With those kinds of numbers, and a stable of talented running backs, a whole lot of options are open for this explosive offense.
Scouting the passing game: This area looks very sound, especially after Miller returned from his injury last week. Guiton was exceptionally accurate covering for Miller during the injury. The receivers have been solid, too, and Meyer has called that group "arguably the most improved area on our team".
Scouting the run defense: The Buckeyes squared off against a Wisconsin team averaging more than 300 rushing yards per game and held it to 104 yards. The plan could likely be the same this week, since Northwestern ranks 18th in the nation with 249.5 rushing yards per game. The Ohio State linebackers will be in the spotlight against the Wildcats, and responsible for shutting down that running attack.
Scouting the pass defense: The Buckeyes took a big hit when defensive back Christian Bryant broke his ankle late in the Wisconsin game. He is lost for the season and will be replaced by Tyvis Powell. Ohio State has to also be more than a bit concerned over how All-American cornerback Bradley Roby was repeatedly beat by Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Hopefully the all-out emphasis on stuffing the box and stopping the Badgers from running the ball had a lot to do with Roby's tough night.
Scouting the special teams: The Buckeyes shocked the rest of the Big Ten when they handed the punting job to an unknown true freshman from many thousands of miles away - Australian Cameron Johnston. He hit six punts in the Wisconsin game, and dropped all of them inside the 20 yard line. Following Ohio State punts, Wisconsin started its offense from its own 10, 9, 5, 8, 16 and 10 yard lines. That kind of field position advantage pays huge dividends.
-- WR James Clark, a freshman who suffered a serious ankle injury against Florida A&M, had surgery and will be out for the remainder of the season. Clark is expected to receive a medical redshirt and retain four years of eligibility.