Date: Saturday, November 5th
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
No. 10 Nebraska will face its toughest opponent of the season when they travel down to the horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio to face the No. 6 Buckeyes in its second consecutive road matchup against a team in the top 15. With each team with just one loss on the year, this nationally televised matchup could answer questions as to what teams will be playing in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game down the road.
The Huskers will take on an Ohio State offense that ranks as the best in the Big Ten. Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker noted that the Buckeyes have “a ton of weapons” on offense to keep these Blackshirts on their toes. One of those many weapons is the Buckeyes’ 6-foot-2, 222-pound dual-threat quarterback, J.T. Barrett.
“When you have a guy that’s as good an athlete as this and then they use [Barrett] in multiple ways, both obviously as a run-pass option guy, as a runner and as a passer, he’s one of those guys that is really good all around,” said Nebraska head coach Mike Riley. “You have to have a plan to defend what they do, generally offensively, how they approach the game. And then, with that, you’ve got to take it a step further, how are you going to defend certain people.”
The Buckeyes’ offense is a nice balance of both run and pass. As if the Blackshirts didn’t already have their hands full with Barrett, freshman running back Mike Weber is filling in the big shoes of Ezekiel Elliott with ease. Weber already has 770 yards on the ground with six touchdowns on just 129 carries. To compare, that’s 182 yards and two touchdowns more than Nebraska running back Terrell Newby in just nine more carries. Weber and Barrett are a big reason why this Ohio State offense is No. 8 in the country in rushing.
The Buckeyes’ offense will be going up against a Nebraska defense that ranks No. 15 in the nation in points allowed, and is also at the top of the country in interceptions. Nebraska’s “Lockdown U” is one of the best secondaries in the country, and could cause problems for Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Tim Beck. After their showing last week against Wisconsin, Nebraska’s defense proved to be a legitimate squad on the defensive side of the ball.
Nebraska’s offense will be the biggest question mark heading into this matchup. The Huskers enter this week averaging just over 200 yards on the ground each game, but are facing a team that generally allows a little less than half of that each week. The Buckeys are No. 6 in the country in points allowed could force Nerbaska’s offense to rely heavily on the arm of quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who is coming off a 12-of-31 performance where he threw two interceptions. The Huskers may have to dig deep in their playbook to find some passing plays to help them establish the run. If Nebraska depends too much on Tommy Armstrong Jr., Riley knows they could be in trouble.
“Their secondary is stingy. They play a lot of man-to-man coverage,” said Riley. “Hard to beat, good athletes. They play to their help very well. They’re good.”
The biggest surprise in Nebraska’s loss last week was their inability to finish off a team that gave them more than enough chances to seal the deal. The Huskers have owned the fourth quarter this year, outscoring its opponents 108-13. Statistically, if this game comes down to the final quarter of play, the advantage favors Nebraska. However, despite outscoring the Badgers 10-0 in the fourth quarter last week, Nebraska could not score on its final drive of regulation, or their only drive in overtime. That loss should not affect the Huskers’ mentality going into this week, and according to freshman defensive tackle Carlos Davis, it may make them hungrier to get a win.
“It just makes us more passionate to go and get these guys after the tough loss,” said Davis. “I know we are more excited than we were for Wisconsin for this game.”
There have been just four games total that these two schools have ever played in, and the Huskers are just 1-3 in those four games. Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska has split the series 1-1, but their last matchup in Columbus ended with a 63-38 final score in favor of the Buckeyes. This will also be the first time Mike Riley will enter the horseshoe and face Urban Meyer. The two programs have also combined for 81 conference championships, marking each university as a premier program in college football.
What A Win Means For Nebraska:
A win for the Huskers would put themselves right back into the college football playoff conversation. By beating a No. 6 Ohio State team, Nebraska could jump up in the College Football Playoff poll and could possibly earn their highest ranking of the season. Beating Ohio State would also help immensely in winning the Big Ten West. Nebraska will likely be favored in each contest to close out the season. If Nebraska can maintain just one Big Ten loss, they are a shoo-in to end up in Indianapolis.
What A Win Means For Ohio State:
A Buckeyes win would also put its name right back into playoff contention, despite their loss two weeks ago to Penn State. Ohio State would keep their playoff hopes alive after beating a top ten team, and it would also keep their Big Ten championship dream alive. If Ohio State can beat Nebraska, then their game against Michigan at the end of the year will dictate who goes to Indianapolis.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Offense:
http://www.scout.com/player/141899-tommy-armstrong?s=204 Last week, the senior quarterback made some great plays, but also made some “old Tommy” plays as well. Armstrong Jr. ended the game just 12-of-31 on passing attempts and had two interceptions, but also managed to pick up 47 yards on the ground. Facing yet another tough opponent, the Texas native will have to consistently play his best game for four quarters. He may not always play his best ball, but when he is on, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Having a dual-threat quarterback can help make something out of nothing, just as long as he doesn’t try to play hero ball and force a throw that isn’t there. When he is on though, Nebraska is a tough offense to stop.
“It’s pretty neat when it gets really tight and tough. He makes a lot of plays,” Riley said.
http://www.scout.com/player/164650-terrell-newby?s=204 Newby has consistently been a player offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and the rest of this Husker offense can depend on for yards. Despite finishing last week’s game with just 78 yards, the senior back played a tough, physical brand of football in Madison, all while being banged up. The California native has shown each week that he is finally putting all the pieces together in his senior year, and facing yet another nationally ranked defense this week, the team will ride on his back in their rushing attack. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder needs to produce in the run game to give Nebraska a shot at putting points on the board.
http://www.scout.com/player/157640-corey-whitaker?s=204 As if the horror of the offensive line injury list wasn’t enough before the Wisconsin game, the Huskers lost yet another starter in Tanner Farmer. Whitaker will fill the missing role on the line this week and needs to obviously step up, which is something he has done this whole year. After coming in for the remainder of the game last week, the senior was part of an offensive line that only allowed two total sacks, and also aided in Nebraska’s 152 yards rushing. Filling in for his teammates is nothing new for the senior out of California, as he made an appearance in the Northwestern game, and started the following week against Illinois in place of Farmer. “I’ve got a lot of respect for [Whitaker],” Riley said. “He always appears to be ready and when a guy goes in like that you want it to be seamless as possible and Corey helps us do that.” Whitaker’s performance will dictate the efficiency in Nebraska’s offensive attack this week, and they need him to play his best game of his career.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Defense:
http://www.scout.com/player/156121-ross-dzuris?s=204 The senior defensive end is having a great year this year, despite not getting the recognition he might deserve. After filling an open slot on the line last year, the mustached warrior has surprised his critics by being one of the most consistent players on this Blackshirt defense. So far on the year, Dzuris has 24 tackles and also leads the team in sacks with 4.5, and has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in every other game. This week, the Plattsmouth native will have to bring his A game, facing a fast Ohio State offense that will do some reverses and jet sweeps. He will also have to minimize the ability junior quarterback J.T. Barrett has of escaping the pocket. Senior defensive tackle Kevin Maurice noted “they already run a ton of draws with [Barrett] and try to get him in space, so it is going to be real important to contain him in the pocket and not let him get loose.” If he plays his cards right and stays home on the run and contains Barrett, the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder could have a career game.
http://www.scout.com/player/167966-nathan-gerry?s=204 Gerry has shown flashes of greatness this season and each game it appears that he continues to improve. Last week against the Badgers, the senior safety ended the game with two interceptions and seven solo tackles, most of which were hard hits. Banker noted this week how he has noticed Gerry’s play improves each week as the season goes on. “Nate Gerry’s his own man,” Banker said. “He’s really played well through the seven games that he’s played. We’re seeing an improvement in him each week...” The Sioux Falls native’s play recognition is gaining national attention as well, as he has been named as a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which recognizes the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year. Facing another great offense with a prime time quarterback, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder could have his hands full, but should make the most out of his opportunities.
http://www.scout.com/player/161640-josh-banderas?s=204 Another senior that has really stepped up his play this season is the man in the middle of this Husker defense. Banderas led the Bblackshirts last game in tackles with eight, and also leads the team with 51 on the year. The Lincoln native showed last week that he is swarming to the ball and executing great form on his tackles. The senior captain is definitely going to have a busy game defending both the run and the pass against the best offense in the Big Ten, but the confidence that is oozing out of Banderas should assure Husker fans that he is going to have another great game this week.
Injury Report For Nebraska:
TE) Cethan Carter (elbow) Questionable
Carter has not seen the field since the first quarter against Illinois on October 1st. The senior tight end hurt his elbow four weeks ago and has been nursing his injury ever since. The Louisiana native has been working out and practicing with the team this week. Riley noted that Carter’s return could be against the Buckeyes, but he doesn’t want to bring him back too soon. “It might be one of those deals where he’s pretty close, and it might be best to keep him out another week just for his comfort and playing.”
OG) Tanner Farmer (ankle) OUT
Farmer went down last week against Wisconsin with an ankle injury for the second time on the year. The sophomore was diagnosed with a severe ankle sprain and will not see the field this week. His status will be week-to-week, but he could be back as early as next week against Minnesota.
LB) Dedrick Young (elbow) Probable
Young suffered an elbow injury last week that eventually took him out of the game. The sophomore’s return will depend on how he feels in practice this week, but Riley noted that he optimistic about his return and guesses that he will play.
DT) Carlos Davis (shoulder) Questionable
The freshman defensive linemen went down with a shoulder injury last week against Wisconsin. Davis dislocated his shoulder and actually popped it back in on the same play, which took him out of the rest of the game. As of now, the Missouri native’s return is still undecided and will depend on how finishes out practice this week.
Quote To Note:
“The mood is good. [Wisconsin] was a tough loss. We had them at some points. We felt like we should have come out of that game with a win. Obviously it didn’t go that way. We are excited for this week - huge opportunity for us. We control our own destiny. Guys are still pumped up, they’re jacked to go to Columbus to play a great team at Ohio State. Could be a huge statement game for us so we've just got to continue to keep preparing and just keep getting better.” – Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp
After watching Ohio State’s last four games against Indiana, Wisconsin, Penn State and Northwestern, the main theme that I took from these four matchups was that this team is “beatable.” Nebraska is coming off a heartbreaking loss and should be even hungrier this week for a win. This game could be the opposite of last week and could be a high-scorer in Columbus. It will be interesting to see, as they say, which Tommy Armstrong will show up this game, but I believe he will have a great game and show why he is such a great competitor. Nebraska’s defense also showed for the majority of the Wisconsin game that they can shut down a team when they want to. That being said, this will be a high scoring game, but a tight one that will go down to the wire. J.T. Barrett’s athleticism will be too much for this Husker defense to handle, and he will create a touchdown out of nothing to gain momentum late in the game. I can see a last-minute turnover that could cause Nebraska the game and for Ohio State to escape with a win by a slim, one-score margin.