Coming off of a dominating 62-14 homecoming victory against Big Ten East Division foe Maryland, the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the first time since the 2011 season. Ohio State and Nebraska have played five times through the years, with Ohio State leading the series 4-1. Ohio State enters the game with a 5-1 record and on the verge of clinching bowl eligibility, while Nebraska enters the contest with a record of 3-3.
Even though Ohio State is coming off a series of impressive performances versus Army, UNLV, at Rutgers and against Maryland, the Buckeyes are not devoid of any problems or issues. Ohio State lost starting right guard Branden Bowen to injury last week, potentially causing concerns with the offensive line. Matthew Burrell is the front-runner to take over for Bowen at the position, but Demetrius Knox or Malcolm Pridgeon also are in the mix.
While Ohio State has its challenges, the issues for the Buckeyes pale dramatically in comparison to what is taking place for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley is under siege for a lackluster performance as head coach, having posted a record of 18-14 since taking the position in 2015. The 3-3 record in 2017 has fans grumbling, eager to get back to the glory years that were commonplace under legendary head coach Tom Osborne.
Pouring gas onto the fire is the fact that Nebraska relieved Shawn Eichorst as athletic director on Sept. 24. Nebraska has hired former Cornhusker center Dave Rimington as the interim athletic director, while former Cornhusker and current Nebraska-Omaha athletic director Trev Alberts declined to be considered for the permanent job. No matter who ultimately gets the AD job, Riley is under immense pressure from both the fans and the administration.
Ohio State at Nebraska
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Ohio State -24
Three Things To Watch
1. Nebraska's passing game vs. Ohio State's secondary
Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee has struggled with interceptions, having already thrown 10 this season. Lee's interceptions were especially costly in a home 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois. Ohio State's secondary has improved dramatically from the first two weeks of the season, but the Buckeyes' last four opponents have lacked well-established passing attacks. You can also throw in the fact that Ohio State will be without Damon Arnette at one cornerback spot for at least the first half due to a targeting penalty that took place in the second half of last week's game against Maryland. Denzel Ward will be back at one cornerback, after serving his own suspension for targeting, but Lee may try to pick on a less experienced cornerback in Arnette's absence.
2. Ohio State's offensive line vs. Nebraska's defensive line
As mentioned above, Ohio State will have a revamped offensive line with the loss of Branden Bowen. No matter who replaces Bowen as the starter, Ohio State prides itself on establishing a strong running game first and foremost. Nebraska ranks near the bottom half of The B1G in rush defense, giving up an average of 147 yards per game.
3. Ohio State's special teams play
Ohio State suffered through a multitude of errors in the win against Maryland, as the Buckeyes gave up a kickoff for a touchdown, had a field goal blocked, a botched extra point, and a poor punt that gave Maryland good field position. It would be sufficient to say that Ohio State fans were not shy in expressing their concern and displeasure, as reflected in the tweet below. Special teams miscues are capable of losing games for teams, which is why Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is desperate to get the units fixed.
Nebraska is coming off a disappointing home loss to Big Ten West rival Wisconsin, and have the 62-3 loss at Ohio State in 2016 in the back of their collective minds. The Cornhuskers have the talent to keep this game close for at least the first half, but Ohio State's defensive line will be able to force Tanner Lee into making some mistakes that may create a snowball effect that the Cornhuskers will not be able to stop. Look for Ohio State to pull away in the second half, using the running game with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to control the clock.