COLUMBUS, Ohio - What's brewing with the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes ...
BUCKEYES BUZZ: Braxton Miller sat out almost three games with a sprained knee ligament, but he came back in fine form.
In fact, Ohio State's coaches raved about one of his four TD passes in particular, a 26-yarder to Devin Smith late in the first quarter for a 14-7 lead.
"It's a throw he wouldn't have made (a year ago)," QBs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
"He could have made it, absolutely could have. But he wouldn't have made it because he didn't trust himself and he didn't trust what he saw and when he saw it. He might have seen it a split second too late, he might not have trusted the fact that was he was seeing was reality."
Even Miller, who was 17 of 25 passing for 198 yards with no interceptions, conceded that he might not have even considered making the throw -- going to his second read and patiently making a throw to a tight spot to the receiver.
There were other throws Miller made -- a zippy laser to Corey Brown covering 40 yards on the final play of the half, and a 25-yarder to Evan Spencer's back shoulder to open the scoring -- that seemed beyond Miller's reach not so long ago.
"We couldn't do that last year," coach Urban Meyer said of the Spencer throw. "There were games I refused to call it because they were going to be covered and we couldn't throw it."
Miller's favorite completion was the one to Brown, which came on the next play after a Wisconsin defender had dropped an interception drown directly to him.
"I felt like it was going to be open. That's why I looked to the right first and I stepped up in the pocket to the left. That's why he was so wide open. I just darted it in there," Miller said.
QUOTABLE: Meyer on WR Corey Brown, who he said transitioned from a guy who had only bought in 75 percent to a team leader: "This time last year, I was hoping he would move on somewhere else. We had enough. And he's really done a nice job. Not a nice job; a great job."
A HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN: This is a major event in Evanston, Ill., with two unbeaten teams, both ranked in the top 16, coming to Ryan Field for a primetime game. ESPN's GameDay will also be on hand for the first time in 18 years.
The game's a sellout. Fans are fired up and ready to go. So what's it like around town, Pat Fitzgerald?
"I don't know. We're in a bunker," the Northwestern head coach said. "We're so focused right now on what we need to do."
He did know that his players are aware of what's at stake.
"Our young men, just like the four teams who played last week in our conference, are just excited to play Big Ten football," he said.
Ohio State DL Michael Bennett knows that the emotion in Evanston will be ramped up.
"It probably means a lot to them," he said. "I was talking with some guys (at Northwestern) and apparently they're treating the game just like any other game. That's what they're saying in the media. That could be true.
But it's hard to deny that it's a night game against another undefeated school and they're undefeated. It's a big game."
FAMILY TIME: Ohio State P Cameron Johnston is from Geelong, Australia, but when the Buckeyes opened the season against Buffalo, he had a touch of home with him.
His grandparents made the trip and were overwhelmed by 100,000 people cheering for their grandson.
"It was their 50th wedding anniversary, so they just decided to come over," he said. "It was great having them here for the first game. And they loved it. They thought it was a great experience. They'd never seen anything like it before."
SPEEDSTER BACK: After missing the past three games with a leg injury, Northwestern's mercurial runner/receiver/returner Venric Mark is expected to be back in full form against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have taken notice.
"I see he's one of the best punt and kick returners in America," Meyer said. "Our defensive coaches say he's a 1,400-yard rusher and an All-American player."
Mark adds a dimension that keeps every defense honest -- the ability to turn a simple play into a big gainer or a long touchdown.
"I don't know how (his return) will change their offense," CBs coach Kerry Coombs said. "I know that that's a talented kid running the ball. I don't think they'll make wholesale changes in what they do. They're just going to give the ball to a really good player. How that makes us account for that, you've got to defend the option game in all phases. The zone read and all that kind of stuff, that's really important."
BADLY ROBY: Ohio State CB Bradley Roby had a tough game against Wisconsin. He was flagged for a couple of penalties, was beaten easily on a few catches and seemed to spend the entire day trying to find Badgers WR Jared Abbrederis.
"He didn't play up to Roby standards," Meyer said. "You know, we kind of put him on an island the entire game. We held them to a hundred yards rushing (actually 104), a team that as averaging over 300. That decision was made on Sunday right (to isolate Roby). That
helped us win this game."
CBs coach Kerry Coombs said he did have to work a little extra with Roby this week.
"Great corners have very limited consciences. They're not too concerned about the last play," he said. "I'm not going to tell you that we asked more than what he's capable of delivering, because I don't think that's true. The kid that he played against was very good, but we made a determination as a coaching staff that in order to win that game you stop the run."
He had no doubt that Roby would bounce back.
"We're going to hang our hat on that kid," Coombs said. "He'll come back this week and he'll play great."