Ohio State comes into Evanston ranked 4th in the AP and 3rd in the Coaches Poll; this breaks NU's streak of 18 consecutive games without facing an opponent who was ranked at the time. The last ranked opponent NU faced was Michigan State on Nov. 26, 2011. (Note that 3 of NU's opponents last season were not ranked at the time but ended the season ranked in at least one of the major polls: Vanderbilt, Nebraska, and Michigan).
Since 1995, NU has faced 9 Top-5 (Coaches) ranked opponents, and although the 'Cats are 1-8 in those games, they are 6-3 ATS. NU's only win came in 1996 vs. Michigan. Northwestern was the underdog in all of those matchups to the tune of an average of 21.2 points/game, but the only line in single-digits (Mich '96) was NU's only victory among those games.
Speaking of the line, NU is currently a 5.5 point underdog, which would match the lowest point spread for the Wildcats against a Top-10 (Coaches) opponent (since 1995). The other instances: vs. Michigan State in both 2010 and 2011 (MSU was ranked 8th in the Coaches Poll coming into the 2010 game and 10th in 2011). Since 1995, the average point spread for NU against Top-10 (Coaches) opponents is 17.8 (NU has been an underdog in all of the games, and their record is 6-21, 14-13 ATS).
Northwestern is 12-16 at home against ranked (Coaches) opponents since 1995. NU's last win against a ranked opponent was Nov. 5, 2011 at Nebraska, and the last such home win was Nov. 13, 2010 vs. Iowa (the Persa Achilles game). Fitz is 5-14 vs. ranked opponents.
But, Fitz has improved his record coaching a ranked (Coaches) team to 6-8 after having won the last 5 such games. Also, the game is on NU's homecoming, and the 'Cats are 11-7 on homecoming since 1995.
Speaking of homecoming, this is just the 3rd time that Ohio State has served as a homecoming opponent for another Big Ten team since 2002 (OSU is 1-1 in those games). For reference, Minnesota is the favorite homecoming opponent, having served in that role 20 times since 2002. NU, meanwhile has been an opponent's homecoming opponent 19 times since '02 and is 10-9 in those games (note this for next week, since NU will be Wisconsin's homecoming opponent).
This game will also be a home sellout for Northwestern, their 20th such game since 1995. NU is 9-10 in the prior games and is 13-6 ATS in those games. The 'Cats have only been favored in 2 of those prior 19 games, and the 5.5 point spread would be the lowest since Michigan visited in 2005.
Since 1995, Northwestern is 22-19 when an underdog by 6 or fewer points.
That's quite a few stats, but feel free to request more in the comments since this is such a huge week.
More from Sippin' On Purple:
- Venric Mark injury: Northwestern RB listed as starter on Ohio State depth chart
- Northwestern vs. Ohio State: Handicapping the Wildcats' College GameDay Guest Picker
- Northwestern vs. Ohio State: The College GameDay Sign Symposium
- Northwestern vs. Ohio State odds: Wildcats 5.5-point underdogs vs. Buckeyes
- Northwestern vs. Ohio State: College Gameday coming to Evanston