The Big Ten has been a bit of a disappointment nationally, but apparently Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes didn’t get the message.
Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers are in need of a big win to solidify their ranking and place atop the Big Ten’s Legends Division.
Last year against Ohio State, the Huskers pulled off the greatest comeback in school history, scoring 28 straight to erase a 21-point deficit. Ohio State will certainly have revenge on their minds this year.
Saturday night in Columbus we might just find out who is the best team in the conference. We also might find out who is the best quarterback in the conference.
Nebraska at Ohio State
Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is fresh off a 17-16 win over Michigan State in East Lansing in which their defense handled the Spartans with relative ease. The Buckeyes held MSU star running back LeVeon Bell to just 45 yards on 17 carries and forced Andrew Maxwell to throw 42 times. He completed only 22.
Quarterback Braxton Miller overcame three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) in that game, but his athleticism was on full display. He showed, once again, an incredible ability to make huge plays at key times in the game.
Miller ran 23 times for 136 yards and threw what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown pass, a 63-yarder to Devin Smith, late in the third quarter. Miller also passed 23 times, completing 16. On the year, he has thrown for 933 yard, ran for 577 and accounted for 15 total touchdowns.
Nebraska is coming off a wild comeback win at home against Wisconsin. The Huskers trailed 27-10 in the third quarter before stringing together 20 straight points to get the win.
In that game, quarterback Taylor Martinez threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. So far this season, Martinez has shaken off the turnover problems that have plagued him the last two seasons. He has just one interception through 5 games.
Running back Rex Burkhead had a solid, if unspectacular, game with 86 yards on 18 carries. He was huge in that comeback last year, wearing down the Buckeyes defense while piling up 178 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.
Let’s look at the keys for each team.
What Nebraska Must Do To Win
As always, Nebraska’s chances rest on Martinez.
He has to make plays with his arm and legs and, most importantly, he has to protect the football. He has done those things this year, and the results have been good for the Huskers.
Just like last year, it will be important for Nebraska to stay with Burkhead as well. His running style tends to wear defenses down over the course of the game, and as they wear down he gets stronger. For his career, when Burkhead gains 100 yards, the Huskers are 12-0. Obviously getting him touches will be a big part of the game plan.
Defensively, Nebraska must keep Miller from connecting on those huge plays. This year, Miller has touchdown passes of 72 and 63 yards and touchdown runs of 65, 55, and 37 yards.
If Nebraska lets him get one or two of those types of plays, they will have a hard time winning in Columbus.
What Ohio State Must Do To Win
The Buckeyes will start Carlos Hyde at running back in place of Jordan Hall, who is out with a torn PCL in his right knee. Hyde isn’t as multi-dimensional as Hall, but he did play well on the final drive against Michigan State, picking up important yards and first downs to kill the clock.
Ohio State will need to run, both with Hyde and Miller.
Miller is certainly one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation, but at some point you have to worry about the wear and tear he absorbs by carrying so much. He left the game twice last week with minor injuries, but each was enough to put a scare in Buckeye fans.
I think that more passing play calls, especially downfield, would help the Buckeyes against Nebraska.
UCLA proved that Nebraska can be beaten through the air, as they totaled 305 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Devin Smith has been a big play stud this year. If Miller hits him for a couple of deep balls it could spell doom for the Huskers.
Stopping Rex Burkhead should be the first order of business for the defense.
Riding high off their shutdown of LeVeon Bell, the Buckeyes should have the confidence, ability and scheming to slow Burkhead and make Martinez play hero-ball to beat them.
Nebraska – Ohio State Prediction
This Ohio State team has an uncanny ability to come up with huge plays at precisely the right times.
I don’t see either team pulling away from the other in this game. I think Ohio State has learned from last year’s letdown and will come out hungry for revenge.
I also think Miller and the Buckeyes will have one or two game-changing plays at key points of the game to get the win.
Final Score: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 24
Nebraska – Ohio State Game Info
- Nebraska – Ohio State Date: Saturday, October 6, 2012
- Nebraska – Ohio State Kickoff Time: 8:00 PM ET
- Nebraska – Ohio State TV: ABC
- Nebraska – Ohio State Point Spread: Ohio State -3.5
- Nebraska – Ohio State Over/Under: 57.5