Ohio State vs. Northwestern score, takeaways: No. 2 Buckeyes overcome sloppy play, weather to remain unbeaten

No. 2 Ohio State escaped another close call, beating Northwestern 21-7 in a game played amid conditions that were nearly as ugly as the overall performance. It rained steadily throughout with strong winds featuring gusts of up to 40 MPH blowing through Ryan Field, and it had a major impact on Ohio State's offensive game plan. 

Go stand in a wind tunnel and throw a football. See how well it works out for you. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud would tell you it doesn't go well after he completed only 10 of his 26 passes for 76 yards. While there were a few drops, Stroud's accuracy was off all day as the wind wreaked havoc on any throw meant to go more than 5 yards. The Buckeyes, who were without star running back TreVeyon Henderson, began to lean more on the run game in the second half. Even Stroud, who has never been known as a scrambler, finished with more rushing yards (79) than passing. Miyan Williams led the Buckeyes with 104 yards and two touchdowns, including a 27-yard scoring run to give the Buckeyes the lead in the second half.

While a win is a win, what remains unknown is how the College Football Playoff will view the performance. Will the Buckeyes be punished for not dominating a Northwestern team that is now 1-8, or will it show an understanding of the conditions in which the game was played? We'll get answers to that question Tuesday. Ohio State's just happy to remain undefeated for now, though.

1. Concerning Ohio State performance despite the weather

There's no question that Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country, but there is question whether it's the best team in the Big Ten. I was confident in it being so through the first month and a half of action, but I'm no longer so sure. While Ohio State hasn't lost, it hasn't looked nearly as sharp offensively as you want to see from a team with national title aspirations.

It looked out of sorts for a half against Iowa before finally breaking a Hawkeyes defense that knew it would receive no help from its offense. The Buckeyes struggled to move the ball consistently last week against Penn State, though its defense came through with big plays to get the win.

Against Northwestern, you can't ignore the weather, but the Buckeyes couldn't run the ball against a Northwestern defense that ranked 13th in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed per game and 109th nationally. Saturday, the Buckeyes rushed for 207 yards on 35 carries, but if you remove a 44-yard scramble from Stroud on a play meant to be a pass, the Buckeyes averaged only 4.8 yards per carry.

This all after averaging 2.2 yards per carry against Iowa and 3.8 against Penn State. C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes receivers are the stars of the show, but this is an offense that isn't at its best in the air if things aren't working on the ground too, and this is three straight weeks in which the Buckeyes have struggled in that department. I don't know if that'll lead to a loss against either Indiana or Maryland, but against Michigan? I'm starting to wonder if the Wolverines have a better shot to beat Ohio State again than I initially believed.

2. Ryan Day finally showed respect to Mother Nature

Last season, the Buckeyes played Michigan on a cold, windy day with snow. They attempted 49 passes and ran the ball 30 times in a 42-27 loss. In rain and high winds against Northwestern, Ohio State threw the ball 16 times and ran it 16 times in the first half. It scored only seven points. In the second half, the Buckeyes ran the ball 19 times to only 10 passes. They scored 14 points and averaged 5.7 yards per play, which was much better than the 3.7 they averaged in the first half.

One common complaint about Ryan Day's playcalling has been he gets too pass-happy at times After watching the first half of this game, I wondered if those tendencies might cost the Buckeyes. Thankfully, Day adjusted at halftime and leaned on the run, even if it wasn't working as well as he'd have liked.

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Ohio State up 14-7 after three

While it wasn't enough to pull away, Ohio State certainly played better in the third quarter than it did the first half, with Miyan Williams giving the Buckeyes a lead with a touchdown run. Still, the passing game is struggling, as wind is effectiing accuracy, and rain is impacting the ability to catch the ball. In other words, while Ohio State leads, neither side can be comfortable for the final quarter. One loose ball can turn this game on its head.

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