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Nebraska Football: The Huskers' Guide to Upsetting the Ohio State Buckeyes

Nebraska Football: The Huskers' Guide to Upsetting the Ohio State Buckeyes

Nebraska Football: The Huskers' Guide to Upsetting the Ohio State Buckeyes

Nebraska's win over Illinois last Saturday taught Scott Frost's team a couple of important things. The Huskers can win a shootout and they can tire a defense out. As well-conditioned as Ohio State is, the human body can only handle so much stress.

It would be entertaining to see these Cornhuskers get into another shootout as they did with the Illini. It might also end up netting them a victory Saturday night at home over the most difficult team on their schedule.

Yes, Frost has to do his part as offensive play-caller, but he kept defensive coordinator Erik Chinander on during the transition from UCF for a reason. Trust him to figure out how to stifle Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins as he managed to do with Illinois' Reggie Corbin.

We could stop there but that's no fun. It's time to go in-depth and break down exactly what Nebraska needs to do to pull off the upset. And let's put aside the usual platitudes about playing a perfect game, not turning the ball over, etc. Those are givens.

This is the nitty-gritty.

When Nebraska is on Offense

Adrian Martinez needs to keep pressing the easy button

The Martinez that Husker fans know and love showed up in the second half versus Illinois. Perhaps the best way to ensure he sticks around for most of Saturday's game is to remove the chance for him to overthink.

Approach the game plan as if it were a series of quick, three-to-five-second decisions, preferably simple, easily repeatable ones.

Offensive line needs to shine

One of the ways to keep things simple for Martinez is for his offensive line to stand its ground consistently. While this group has struggled repeatedly, quick reads and releases by Martinez will make everyone's life easier.

One of the night's biggest matchups will be how the Huskers' front fares against Ohio State's defensive line, specifically Chase Young, who is tied for the national lead with seven sacks.

Young is going to be a terror to handle, but forcing him to be even a step slower would be a major blessing for Frost. Nebraska's head coach noted during Monday's press conference that they can't focus on him too much lest they make it easier for another Buckeye defender to come up with a big play.

Use the entire field

Ohio State's defense is tremendous and their linebackers have only improved since 2018. Even then, they were pretty darn good.

The Huskers must stretch the field. Whether that involves repeated run-pass option work is up to Frost, but a likely place to start.

Respect Ohio State's speed

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If the Buckeye defense spreads out, naturally the fastest players Nebraska has to offer must be put in a position to find space. That said, swing passes are incredibly dangerous early in the contest unless blocked almost flawlessly.

Not only could a down be essentially wasted as Ohio State is capable of playing sideline-to-sideline in fast fashion. Imagine a Buckeye jumping the route for a disastrous pick-six.

This has been accomplished far too often in several of the Huskers' big games over recent years. To say the end result has stung for the Big Red faithful is being kind.

But don't afraid to get physical with the DBs

If Nebraska wants to force some of the nation's best cornerbacks out of position, physicality is the name of the game.

Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette must be locked down by the Huskers' larger receivers (Kanawai Noa, Mike Williams, Jack Stoll, etc.). Eventually, they should be pulled out of place for a larger gain through the air.

Use the pass to set up the run

Frost can force the Buckeye back seven to defend the long balls Martinez is capable of connecting on. He did overthrow several versus the Illini that should have Ohio State feeling an easy interception is in the cards.

Because of this, the Husker running backs could find extra room and bounce into the second level for significant gains.

When Nebraska is on Defense

Make Ohio State work for its points
The Buckeyes have able to bust games wide open in the first half and cruise to victory. Just last week, Justin Fields accounted for six — count 'em six — touchdowns in the second quarter alone versus Miami (Ohio).

The Blackshirts must irritate Fields. If not by breaking into the backfield to make life difficult, then to remove his teammates from the equation. Slow down J.K. Dobbins. Keep Binjimen Victor, Chris Olave, and K.J. Hill's progress to a minimum.

Is this a lot to ask? Yes, but disrupting rhythm can make it happen. It won't be achieved on every drive. But it can be done enough to put the Big Red in position to win.

Pounce on the slightest mistake

Of course, containing Fields is far easier said than done. However, he has shown a tendency to throw higher passes. Not quite as often as Martinez has early on, but he provides ample opportunity to pose a danger to the Ohio State effort.

This is where blanketing his wide receivers and keeping disciplined coverage can pay off for the Big Red. Nebraska's back seven has the ability to take advantage of tip drills and errant passes.

For example, if JoJo Domann forces Fields to throw just over the head of his receivers, Lamar Jackson can pop a high pass up for Cam Taylor-Britt to come down with it.

Mix things up on D

This is a tilt where multiple defensive fronts could pay dividends. It wouldn't be a shock to see Chinander not only throw 4-3 and 3-4 looks at Fields but perhaps a 4-2-5 and 3-3-5, too.

Let JoJo go-go
Domann has proven that he is deserving of as much playing time as he can handle. He may have to max out what he's physically able to do, but the Blackshirts are flat out better when he's roaming around.

He's the type of player who can make Fields hesitate or throw a pass off far enough for it to wind up in either team's hands.


Beating Ohio State seems near impossible four games into the season. Considering the competition the Buckeyes have faced, this is appropriate. To make matters worse, Nebraska has been coughing up fumbles as if doing so resulted in free points. That's a surefire way for this game to get away from the home team in a hurry. The Huskers did spot Illinois 14 points last week. That cannot happen to have any chance on Saturday against Ohio State.

But every season, the Buckeyes prove to be human. In 2018, they were dropped 49-20 by Purdue. In 2017, Iowa plunked them 55-24. They survived Northwestern by the skin of their teeth 24-20 in 2016. And it goes on.

The Huskers are the underdogs in about every conceivable way. But this is college football. We see end results happen which shouldn't by all logical reason. That's part of the sport's mystique. Maybe luck smiles on the Big Red this weekend.

College GameDay visits, Ohio State takes a few unexpected hits to the jaw and the Huskers put it all together if only for one night.

Why not?

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces). To contact him, click here.