5 Questions: Ohio State at Nebraska

This week a pair of offenses with athletic quarterbacks and anemic passing games will be part of the first matchup of Ohio State and Nebraska as Big Ten members. We examine that as well as the OSU offensive line, the Cornhuskers option game and explosive plays in this week's Five Questions.

1. Will either team conjure up any semblance of a passing game?

If you're a fan of running the ball, this should be your type of contest. Ohio State enters 111th in the nation in passing yards, and Nebraska is not much better at 104th.

Both starting quarterbacks have completion percentages barely hovering over 50 so far this season.

Buckeye Braxton Miller is 20 for 39 for 291 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while Cornhusker signal caller Taylor Martinez is 54 for 107 and threw three costly interceptions during a blowout loss at Wisconsin last weekend.

Both teams also have young receiving corps. Devin Smith leads Ohio State with 183 receiving yards and three touchdowns while fellow true freshman Jamal Turner has 13 catches for 223 yards for Nebraska.

2. Can Ohio State contain the Nebraska option?

Martinez is dangerous with his legs, and Nebraska utilizes them with a variety of designed runs, including a multitude of different option plays, from the shotgun zone read to a version of the old school veer out of the I formation. He averages 96.4 yards rushing per game, good for fourth in the conference so far and second on his team to I-back Rex Burkhead (102.2 ypg.)

"They do a lot of different formations, have the option game, the toss game, the fullback belly," linebacker Andrew Sweat said. "They do a lot of things, but they do what they do well. They're not going to deviate. They're going to stick to their game plan.

"You have to identify where (Martinez) is at all times, but they have a lot of playmakers. It's more or less realizing what formation they're in and what defense we're in and adjusting to it."

3. Will the Buckeye offensive line bounce back?

The youth at quarterback and wide receiver make the struggles of those positions somewhat understandable, but twice in five games the offensive line has not lived up to its lofty expectations. Simply put, this unit must be on top of its game every week for the Buckeyes to have a chance to succeed on offense.

The challenge this week is to handle an athletic and talented front from Nebraska that plays a style unique to college football under head coach Bo Pelini, a former Ohio State player.

Of course, the Blackshirts have not been as stout up front as expected. They are giving up 152.8 yards per game on the ground, an average that leaves them 66th in the country.

4. How about some constraint plays?

This is not a new complaint for those who follow the Buckeyes, but the lack of counters, reverses, bootlegs and screen passes to slow the onslaught of the Michigan State defense last week has unhappiness with the OSU offensive coaching staff at perhaps an all-time high.

The Cornhuskers form a fast defense that pursues hard, so some misdirection could be an effective way to slow it down.

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said the struggles would be evaluated from last week and adjustments will be made, so it will be interesting to see what the offensive staff comes up with.

5. How about somebody makes a big play?

Ohio State's offense is not likely to become an efficient machine in the near future because of all the raw parts, but players like Miller, Smith and tailback Jordan Hall are capable of creating big gains with their natural talent.

With his offense struggling, Fickell has lamented a handful of missed opportunities for the defense to make plays that could have turned things around in losses to Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State, too.

"We need to do a better job defensively making some of those big plays that maybe turn into a touchdown," Fickell said. "We almost got a couple picks that could have been changers in the game, and we got a chance to block a punt that goes through the guy's hands early in the game."

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