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Why Northwestern Will Win the Big Ten Championship

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NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

A short but comprehensive look at how OSU ends up watching the playoffs from their film room.

On Offense: Clayton Thorson. While it would be tempting to point to Isaiah Bowser’s rather surprising season in the wake of Larkin’s abrupt departure—especially in light of the debacle OSU had at Maryland—as the difference-maker, I have to go with Thorson. OSU bottled up Karan Higdon last week, allowing only 72 yards on 15 carries, which denied him a 10thgame over 100 yards. Bowser is a talented runner but he’s not a game-breaker. He lacks the speed of an Anthony McFarland, and two of his three best yardage performances required more than 30 carries (LOL at Illinois for allowing him 166 on 18 gives).

If OSU’s defense has a weak spot (spoiler: it has oh so many) it’s definitely in the back seven. Thorson isn’t a huge run threat but he’s shown a lot more mobility than some give him credit for, and he’s annoyingly effective at finding Flynn Nagel on third down. He’s basically a Pigrome who completes 60% of his passes and converts 40% of third downs. That could be a nightmare for Greg Schiano, given what an actual Pigrome did to his scheme.

On Defense: Joe Graziano. (Cue instrumental music with appropriate emotional gravitas) What if I told you that Chase Young is a nightmare for offenses, and Northwestern has someone even more prolific? In the words of bad video game English: IT TRUE. Graziano has more tackles, more assists, and only one yard less in the tackles-for-loss productivity. The only category Chase Young bests him is in sacks. If the PSU and Purdue games taught us anything, it’s that you can absolutely knock Haskins around and get him out of rhythm. Unless you’re Michigan, in which case your aMaZInG dEFenSivE liNe won’t touch him. Not even once. Have I mentioned that Chase Winovich is an overrated sack of bong water? Again, IT TRUE.

On the Coaching Staff: Greg Schiano. “But wait!” you shout. “He’s an OSU coach!” Yep. I know what I said. Walk those linebackers up all night, Greg. Never change. Don’t ever let the defensive backs turn their heads. Fake punts aren’t real so you should never anticipate them

Coaching Runner Up: Pat Fitzgerald! The Chet Donnelly we all so richly deserve. 2018 is probably the single dumbest timeline in the history of humanity, and nothing would cap an existence as futilely stupid as ours like Northwestern winning the B1G with an 0-fer noncon record.

Punting: Does Northwestern have a good punter? Who knows! But it’s the most important play of the game and I fully expect Patty the Fitz to come up with some ridiculous triple throwback fake punt where Thorson long-snaps to the punter who then throws it back to him, or worse. Never take your eyes off the smart kids. They do smart kid things like beat you on special teams and/or ruin the global financial system with synthetic derivatives.