Buckeyes look to bounce back after their bye
"Come Nov. 1, I always thought, the real contenders come to light..." Such were the words of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, who had a graduate assistant on his staff by the name of Urban Meyer in 1986-87. It will bear watching to see how closely Meyer heeded the advice of his mentor.
At 7-1, Ohio State sits tied with rival Michigan, second behind the Wolverines in the Big Ten East. Coming off a debilitating 49-20 loss at Purdue on Oct. 20, the Buckeyes are desperate to turn the tide of negative attention that has been focused upon Meyer and the program since the loss.
Urban Meyer was asked Monday if he plans on coaching Ohio State after this season.— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 29, 2018
His answer? Yes. pic.twitter.com/v2Yzpjiy0A
The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into Ohio Stadium on a positive roll, having won their last two games impressively (53-28 win over Minnesota; 45-9 win over FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman). While 2-6, the Cornhuskers realize that several of their losses were close (33-28 loss to Colorado, 24-19 loss to Troy, 34-31 overtime loss at Northwestern), and that the narrative of this game could be quite different.
With positive momentum at their back, and Ohio State facing questions after a difficult loss and bye week, the Cornhuskers feel the Buckeyes may be ripe for an upset. "I know they will be prepared in the first quarter to play their best football of the season,” junior linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “How you handle that is you have to be in your alignment assignments. Your execution has to withstand that fire they’re going to bring during that first quarter. If you can do that, then Purdue is going to seep back into their minds. The doubt is going to seep back into their minds. So that first quarter is big for us.”
Nebraska at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio State -19
Three Things To Watch
1. Ohio State's running game vs. Nebraska's run defense
The traditionally strong running game that's been a hallmark of the Buckeyes under Urban Meyer has stalled lately, with neither J.K. Dobbins nor Mike Weber unable to get going against Indiana, Minnesota or Purdue. Ohio State worked extensively on the running game during the bye week, so it will be interesting to see if there any new offensive wrinkles against Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers have been susceptible to run, coming into this game ranked 11th in the Big Ten at 166 rushing yards per game allowed. They were gashed by both Michigan (285 yards) and Wisconsin (370) in particular and have surrendered 19 rushing touchdowns in eight games.
2. Nebraska's offense vs. Ohio State's defense
As simplistic as that sounds, the Buckeyes have been giving up big plays continually throughout the season. The Cornhuskers feature an impressive dual-threat quarterback in freshman Adrian Martinez, two capable wide receivers in Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman, and a running game with Devine Ozigbo and Maurice Washington. Nebraska may be 2-6 overall, but this is a team that is tied 18th nationally in total offense at 471.3 yards per game. Nebraska also is capable of putting up plenty of points on the scoreboard.
Following the disappointing loss at Purdue, have Ohio State defensive co-coordinators Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch made any personnel changes or schematic adjustments? The Cornhuskers' offense should provide a good litmus test for a defense that ranks eighth in the Big Ten in yards (390.8) and seventh in points (22.9) allowed per game.
3. Ohio State's red zone scoring
The Buckeyes were unable to maximize their red zone opportunities against both Minnesota and Purdue, which is somewhat related to the struggles with their running game. In those two games alone, Ohio State was just 4-for-9 (44.4 percent) in the red zone with no touchdowns. For the season, the Buckeyes are 13th in the Big Ten and 118th nationally with a 75.7 percent scoring rate in the red zone.
Don't be surprised if redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell makes an appearance once Ohio State gets inside Nebraska's 20-yard line. HIs mobility may provide co-offensive coordinators Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson more opportunities to run the zone read, especially around the goal line.
Ohio State was looking wobbly in the games leading up to the Purdue loss, playing uninspired in victories against Indiana and Minnesota. Urban Meyer may have preferred to keep playing, but the bye week came at a good time for the Buckeyes, allowing the players to rest and recuperate, while the staff could focus upon rectifying the issues that need fixing.
Nebraska is going to put up points, but Ohio State has too much firepower, especially through the air with redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins and a talented group of wide receivers. The Buckeyes get back to their winning ways as November and the push for another shot at a Big Ten title and hopeful College Football Playoff berth begins in earnest.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Nebraska 28