COLUMBUS, Ohio — Chatter surrounding Northwestern’s game with Ohio State and calling it the biggest game in the Wildcats' 131-year history is not uncommon amongst the pundits and experts this week (although the 1995 Rose Bowl team probably would beg to differ).
From the Ohio State perspective, it is the second straight night game against a ranked Big Ten opponent as the Buckeyes continue to plead its case to the pollsters as a legitimate National Championship contender.
All eyes will be on Evanston, Ill., on Saturday — quite literally — when No. 4 Ohio State brings its nation-leading 17-game winning streak to Ryan Field to battle No. 16 Northwestern for an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on ABC. On Friday, ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning, co-hosted by Northwestern alum Mike Greenberg, will broadcast on location and the school will welcome ESPN College GameDay on Saturday for the live three-hour morning telecast.
It’s only the third time GameDay has visited Northwestern, but Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald is not letting the attention distract his team.
“We’re in a bunker. We’re so focused right now for what we need to do,” he said Tuesday during the weekly Big Ten teleconference. “I think our young men, probably just like the four teams that played last weekend in our conference, are just excited to play Big Ten football. I think our guys are just excited to get a chance to play the game that they love and to play for the reason they came to this school to play: to be a part of Big Ten football.”
Coming off a pivotal 31-24 conference win last week over then-ranked Wisconsin, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is looking forward to another primetime tilt against a ranked conference opponent.
“(It is) a really difficult game coming up,” he said during the teleconference. “It will be a heck of an atmosphere so we look forward to this challenge.”
Northwestern (4-0, 0-0) is coming off a bye week and has had an extra week to prepare for the Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0).
“I think going into the games that we’ve come out of the bye week, it’s definitely helped us from a health standpoint,” Fitzgerald said. “It gives you an opportunity to improve in areas where you’ve maybe made some mistakes. Over my years here, we’ve come back out of bye weeks — maybe not necessarily successful in the first game back — but it has definitely helped us in the long run for the season.”