We all saw the toll that back-to-back road night games took on the Buckeyes, and now the Cornhuskers must do the same as they go from a heartbreaking overtime loss in a prime-time thriller against Wisconsin to taking on Ohio State in prime time in the Horseshoe.
The Buckeyes have not exactly looked like world beaters in the last month, especially offensively, but neither has Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have been prone to turning the football over, especially in the air as Tommy Armstrong has a tendency to take chances and has had interception problems at times. That could spell doom for him as the Ohio State secondary ranks near the top nationally in picks.
While the OSU secondary is near the top, Nebraska is the top. The Cornhuskers are tied for the national lead in interceptions with 15 and are led by safety Nathan Gerry, who has four picks this season. The problem all season for the Ohio State offense has been the long ball, and pushing the ball downfield likely won’t get much easier with a ball-hawking defense looking to make big plays in a big game.
I could see this game going a number of ways, but after seeing the toll that back-to-back road night games took on the Buckeyes, I think the same will happen to the Cornhuskers. I think Ohio State creates a score on defense in this game and the Buckeyes ride an effective run game to a close victory in some pretty slick retro uniforms in honor of the great Chic Harley.
SCORE: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 23
Which way should I lean for this game? Is Ohio State going to have its “breakout” game on offense and run away with a blowout win? Or is Nebraska going to keep it close and possibly pull off the upset?
When it comes down to it, I think it’s going to be another close one with the Buckeyes coming out on top. The defense will probably have to make another key stop as it did in the final minutes against Northwestern.
That said, OSU’s stop troops will also have to be ready for Nebraska’s mobile quarterback. The Buckeyes have slipped a few times this year when it comes to opposing quarterbacks who can run, and Tommy Armstrong may be the best one they have faced yet.
As a whole, I expect this game to be a relatively low-scoring affair because of Ohio State’s stingy defense, but also in part because of OSU’s inconsistent offense.
The team scored on its first two drives last week against Northwestern but then punted on the next five. Urban Meyer appeared to be pleased with the practices through Wednesday of this week, so maybe some gains were made on the offensive side of the ball.
And I know Nebraska doesn’t have an all-too-impressive résumé in terms of its wins, but the Cornhuskers played Wisconsin just about as tough as Ohio State did. So, they may not be a fraud like some may have taken them for.
SCORE: Ohio State 27, Nebraska 24
After a four-point win over Northwestern last week, is there really any reason to think the Buckeyes can blow out the Cornhuskers this week? No, not really, unless Ohio State can get back to something it did earlier this season.
I’m not talking about a high-flying offensive performance.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong is a great athlete with a strong arm – fitting, considering his name. But he tends to be sloppy at times and has thrown what seems like 1,000 interceptions in his college career. Earlier this season – specifically against Tulsa – the Ohio State defense broke down opposing teams by forcing turnovers and scoring points without the offense setting foot on the field. A matchup with Armstrong presents the opportunity to force plenty of interceptions, and that would go a long way toward Ohio State’s effort.
The thing is, there’s still no quick fix for the Buckeyes on offense. While I think some of the issues are overblown, there’s no denying that Ohio State is poor in the passing game compared to where it would like to be. J.T. Barrett is still inaccurate, especially down the field, and the receivers outside of Noah Brown still struggle to get separation.
Ohio State could win big if the Buckeyes score on defense once or twice, but the offensive concerns will likely lead to another close game. Still, Ohio State has the better team and Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber will score two touchdowns each to keep the Buckeyes in the playoff hunt.
SCORE: Ohio State 28, Nebraska 24
A week ago, I predicted Ohio State would score 38 points in its win over Northwestern. In the end, the Buckeyes got 24 in a closer-than-many-figured 24-20 victory over the Wildcats. OSU also had a string of punts in the game that left many fans exasperated about an attack that rarely looked pretty over its five games in October.
Yet I left that game feeling like the offense is moving in the right direction. Ohio State cranked out more than 430 yards against a Northwestern defense with some future NFL players on it. The Buckeyes just never got any short fields on which to capitalize when it comes to the scoreboard, and a few promising drives did fizzle out before points could be put on the board.
But while there is a major recurring issue with the offense right now – a lack of big plays – the win against Northwestern did show improvement. What does that mean going forward? The Buckeyes need to keep getting better – the offense in its current state will struggle against Michigan – but I saw some things I liked vs. Northwestern and expect I’ll see some more growth against Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers have gotten off to an impressive start and are particularly difficult to throw the ball against, but I feel if Ohio State is going to have a breakout game, this could be it. I’ve been bullish on the Buckeyes all year, but this is put-up or shut-up time. I think they put up in front of the night-game crowd.
SCORE: Ohio State 42, Nebraska 17
Urban Meyer’s team has had back-to-back-to-back-to-back mediocre offensive performances, averaging just 28.3 points per game while going 3-1 against Indiana, Wisconsin, Penn State and Northwestern after averaging 57.0 points per game during the 4-0 start. So what do we see from the offense against the Cornhuskers?
Nebraska has allowed just 18.4 points per game this season, allowing just one team to clear 30 points all year, but outside of a loss to Wisconsin, the Cornhuskers’ schedule is devoid of quality competition. The Cornhuskers are coming off a tough, physical, overtime loss to the Badgers last Saturday night so I don’t expect Nebraska to bring its best game into Columbus, and I’d wager that the Buckeyes become the second team to clear that threshold this week.
The key for the Buckeyes will be getting out to a lead early. After last week’s loss began to derail the Cornhuskers’ season I think things could really go off the tracks if Nebraska finds itself in an early hole. For all its struggles last week, Ohio State actually looked good on its first drive last week, and I think they’ll start fast again this week.
Ohio State has been struggling on offense lately, and while Meyer seems to think the Buckeyes are close, it’s hard to be overly confident that things click this week. However, I am confident that the Buckeyes have more talent than the Cornhuskers and am certain they have the better coach. Combine those factors with home-field advantage and it adds up to a double-digit win.
SCORE: Ohio State 35, Nebraska 24
Josh Harvey, Big Red Report
I have to say as a reporter covering the Huskers I try to stay as neutral as possible. But I will admit, you want to see the team you cover week in and week out do well. The job is usually a lot more fun when that happens.
When I saw a road trip to Columbus on the schedule for Nebraska coming into the year, I didn’t have much hope for Nebraska. After seeing the way the season has played out so far, I must say things don’t look quite as bleak.
There is no doubt the Ohio State roster is more talented, but at the same time I think the Nebraska offense and defense has a little more chemistry. The Huskers are also a little more experienced.
If Nebraska wants to win, they are going to have to do it in the trenches. The offensive line is extremely banged up and the defensive line isn’t deep. Can Nebraska’s front five get any sort of push in the run game? Can the defensive line contain J.T. Barrett?
Ultimately I’m picking the Buckeyes to win this one. But Nebraska’s defense has improved more than most people expected. I think they showed that last week against Wisconsin on the road. It is not very often an undefeated team loses and comes out of it with more respect than they had going into it. Ultimately this is a game Nebraska will use to see where the program is at in year two of a new coach. Don’t be surprised to see them come out of it earning a few more respect points. The spread is way too high.
SCORE: Ohio State 35, Nebraska 27