OVERVIEW: Which Ohio State team will show up to play Nebraska this week? The September Buckeye team, you know the one that looked like the number-two team in America? Or the October team, the one that has struggled to consistently move the football all month? If the good Ohio State shows up, then Nebraska is in a world of hurt, because the Buckeyes at their best will roll this Husker team. If Ohio State plays like they did last week against Northwestern, the Buckeyes will take loss #2.
THE KEY TO OSU WINNING: Have a feeling this offense, which is Urban Meyer's baby, comes out loaded for bear Saturday night. Meyer takes criticism of the offense very seriously, and he's been fairly defensive about it recently. You know he wants a monster effort tonight, with recruits in the house and a national audience watching. The Buckeye defense has seen some slippage lately, but the Nebraska offense should not pose too many problems for this secondary. If Ohio State starts fast offensively and jumps the Huskers, this one could get out of hand.
WHAT WILL OSU DO DEFENSIVELY: They absolutely need to put a lot of pressure on Tommy Armstrong, but before Nebraska thinks about throwing it too much, Ohio State needs to stop their running game. Nebraska can run the football pretty well, and Ohio State needs to get that stopped and make Armstrong beat them through the air. If Nebraska can get their ground game going, that eats up clock and keeps Armstrong from having to do too much. Ohio State needs to have Nebraska in lots of third-and-long situations, which means winning on first down. The Nebraska offense is good, but they struggle throwing the football as much as Ohio State does.
WHAT WILL OSU DO OFFENSIVELY: It has been painful to watch this side of the football lately, and the Northwestern game was pretty bad. But there were some signs late in the game, when Ohio State needed to run out the clock, that give some reason for optimism. Barrett made a few nice throws, and they actually were in the danger zone of the middle of the field. Nebraska is a hard team to run on, so maybe, just maybe, Ohio State breaks tendencies and throws it on the early downs? Usually, you always want to get the inside run established, which opens up the east-west running game and the short passing game. I have a sneaking feeling this offense is going to trust Barrett, trust the wideouts, trust the O-line, and this coaching staff is going to quit playing football like they're a MAC team going against Alabama. Spread the ball around. Get Curtis Samuel the football often. Find Noah Brown across the middle. Hit Marcus Baugh in the flat. Get it to Dontre Wilson on a linebacker. And Good God, throw it deep to K.J. Hill and James Clark. Of course, run Barrett on the zone read, but be creative and daring in the playcalling. Get away from the deer-in-the-headlights look on offense. There is more than enough talent to put up big points on the Huskers, so play balls to the wall and use your weapons, instead of coaching not to lose.
THE "X"FACTOR: Nebraska suffered a crushing loss last week to Wisconsin in overtime, and that game had to have taken a lot out of this team. Ohio State needs to come out with guns blazing, and look to jump them early. If OSU plays slow, with no tempo, and allows this to be another slugfest game, they can lose. I think the tenor of this game is going to be seen in the first quarter, and it's up to the Ohio State offense to dictate pace and game flow. If it's a game played at 150 MPH, Ohio State can score a lot of points. If they poke and prod, and run Tressel's Covered Wagon, Nebraska just might bang with them all night.
THE VEGAS LINE: I don't have a great feel for this Ohio State team right now, especially the team they are on offense. I would never give 17-points to Nebraska, but if the Buckeyes press the pace I believe they can cover this line. But I need to see it first before jumping in on that big of a spread. What I do like today is the "OVER" of 52 points. I truly believe Meyer put his week's work into this offense, and I think they are ready to at least push tempo. Add in Tommy Armstrong, who can help put points on the board for both teams. He is going to make a few plays to hurt Ohio State, but he's also liable to throw it to the Buckeyes a few times as well. I'm expecting a Buckeye Pick-Six in this game. I'm all in on the over-52.
THE PICK: OHIO STATE 38 Nebraska 24.