KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
SITE: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
SERIES: Ohio State leads 59-14-1 but these two teams have not met since the 2008 season when the Buckeyes were 45-10 winners.
RANKINGS: Ohio State No. 4; Northwestern No. 16
KEYS TO THE GAME
Northwestern football hits the big time this Saturday.
No. 4 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) visits Evanston, Ill. for the first time since 2008 and ESPN's Game Day tags along to chronicle the Big Ten season-opening clash for the No. 16 Wildcats (4-0, 0-0).
Northwestern is back in action after a two-week break.
"When you have a bye week it just seems like so long since you last played," Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "The guys have been real focused in the practices now that we've had and hopefully they'll continue to enjoy the moment."
The Buckeyes have won four straight in the series and 28 of the last 29 meetings against Northwestern.
The Wildcats last played on Sept. 21 in a 35-21 non-conference victory over Maine that featured some defensive highlights and shortcomings.
Northwestern tops the nation with 10 interceptions and have 19 picks in their last seven games going back to last season. But the 'Cats pass defense has also struggled and has given up an average 308.8 yards per game, ranked 117th in the nation.
They'll need to do better against Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, back after missing the last two weeks. He earned Big Ten offensive player of the Week honors after completing 17-of-25 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 31-24 win over Wisconsin.
He's also Ohio State's all-time leading rusher at quarterback (2,151 yards) and leads a team ranked second in the Big Ten and 12th in the NCAA with 287.2 yards per game on the ground.
Ohio State is averaging a Big Ten-best 48.2 points per game, ranked sixth in the country.
Northwestern is ranked 18th in the NCAA with 249.5 rushing yards per game and 30th overall with a 483.3 yards per-game average. The 'Cats have successfully managed a two-quarterback system with senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian.
Colter has 264 yards passing with three TDs and 237 yards rushing and three TDs. Siemian has completed 77.1 percent of his passes for 671 yards, four TDs and two interceptions.
Senior RB Venric Mark, a second team All-Big Ten performer and first-team All-American as punt returner in 2012, has not played since the Aug. 31 game at Cal because of an injury. "Usually you dream about this when you're young, playing big-time games like this," Colter said. "But we don't want to overhype it, I feel we don't need to play out of this world. We just need to play our game and each phase of the game to be able to win."
Northwestern has won seven in a row straight dating back to last season and holds the nation's third-longest active winning streak, tied with Alabama and Baylor. The Wildcats last won seven straight during their 1996 Big Ten Championship season.
Ohio State has won 17 in a row, the nation's longest current winning streak.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Braxton Miller returned after missing most of three games with a knee injury and was exceptional against Wisconsin. Miller's four touchdown passes in the 31-24 victory were a personal best. He hit on 17 of 25 passes for 198 yards and also rushed 22 times for 83 yards. Miller looks healed, and highly motivated to make up for the lost time.
--LB Ryan Shazier is at his best against run-based offenses and he led Ohio State with nine total tackles against Wisconsin. He leads the Buckeyes with 37 tackles this season, including seven for loss.
--WR Corey Brown had two pass receptions for touchdowns against Wisconsin -- this from the same guy who a little over a year ago seemed so disinterested that coach Urban Meyer was hoping Brown would transfer. "It's been as big a turnaround as I can remember," Meyer said about Brown's changing role with the team's receiving corps. "He's the leader. He runs the show right now."
--DT Michael Bennett has been a beast in the middle of Ohio State's defensive line, recording four tackles, including a quarterback sack, and forcing a fumble in the win over Wisconsin. He'll need to play a big role in slowing Northwestern.
--P Cameron Johnston had six Johnston punted six times against the Badgers and landed all six inside the 20 yard line. Five of those punts dropped inside the 10 yard line. If Johnston continues to be a potent field position weapon, the Buckeyes look even stronger.
--Venric Mark's potential return should give a boost to a Wildcat backfield that is ranked 28th nationally in rushing without him with 998 net yards. Treyvon Green currently leads with a 101 yard per game average.
--QB Kain Colter now has 26 career rushing touchdowns, fifth all-time in the Northwestern record book and tied with Noah Herrin. Colter also had a passing touchdown in his last game against Maine on Sept. 21 and has 37 rushing/passing score in his last 27 games.
--WR Tony Jones topped Northwestern with six catches for 69 yards and a TD last month against Maine. So far he has 24 receptions for 362 yards and three touchdowns and has either led or tied for the team lead in catches.
--LB Damien Proby set a school record with his second quarter interception for a touchdown against Maine. It was the program's third scoring pick-six this season. The interception was also the first of Proby's career.
--LB Chi Chi Ariguzo leads Northwestern with 35 tackles so far this season. He's averaging 8.8 per game, good for 57th nationally. Against Maine Ariguzo recorded a career-high 12, including nine in the first half.