With the fierce defense's of the Big Ten patiently awaiting, it is officially now or never for the Northwestern University offense to figure out an identity as the team prepares for its matchup against Ohio University on Sept. 25.
A frustrating loss for the Wildcats against Duke University on Sept. 18 showcased just how much the offense needs to improve. With this in mind, a look ahead at the defense that awaits the Wildcats will be beneficial.
Ohio is off to an 0–3 start, but this does not mean they should be underestimated. The combined record of the opponents faced by the Bobcats this season is 5–3 and the team's most recent loss was against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, who were previously ranked in the Top 25 to start the season.
That being said, the defensive performances have not been stellar for the Bobcats. Ohio is surrendering an average of 35.33 points per game and 437.5 yards per game and hold the 106th ranked total defense in the country according to NCAA.com.
Some players to watch on the Ohio defense include redshirt junior linebacker Bryce Houston, who leads the team in total tackles with 26, and redshirt senior Floyd Alvin, who leads the team in solo tackles with 13 and interceptions with 1.
All eyes will be on the quarterback position for the Wildcats, as that position is wide open. Senior quarterback Hunter Johnson had been the starter for the opening three games, but a poor showing against Duke that was highlighted by three first-half interceptions caused the offense to look toward a new option at the position. Senior quarterback Andrew Marty was next in line for the Wildcats and marched the team straight towards a comeback. Marty went 11–16 with 151 yards and two touchdowns in relief duty and had appeared to grasp the starting position. An injury in the fourth quarter, however, complicated this, as it forced Marty out of the game and sent the reigns to redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Hilinski. The third-string quarterback was up-and-down in his limited duty against the Blue Devils, going 2–7 for 34 yards in just under a quarter of action.
Facing an Ohio defense that had objectively struggled this season, it should be interesting to see exactly what the Wildcats do at the quarterback position. Besides the field general, Northwestern will look to running back Evan Hull to continue his high level of production.