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Nebraska vs. Ohio State: Can The Buckeyes Continue Their March In Lincoln?

J.T. Barrett, Ohio STate Buckeyes

When: Sat. Oct. 14; 7:30 pm ET
Where: Lincoln, NE; Memorial Stadium (90,000)
TV: Fox Sports 1
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 62-3 last year
Line: Ohio State (-24)

Is this finally a more formidable opponent that will show us exactly what direction the compass is pointed for an improved Ohio State team? You’d have to be the most cynical of observers to disregard the development that has occurred with this Buckeye team after the rather unassuming loss at the hands of Oklahoma, but just how far has the team come?

It’s been hard to tell with games against the likes of Army, UNLV, Maryland and Rutgers, but maybe — just maybe — this is a wee-bit stiffer of a test on the road against a team with a historical pedigree like the ‘Huskers.

But let’s not kid ourselves here. Though Nebraska has its place in historical college football lore, this team has been far from that. The defense has been suspect, the offensive line a work in progress, and the decision making at quarterback questionable.

Still, this is the chance to play a game in a hostile environment at night. Wisconsin was able to pass the same test in Lincoln with flying colors, and if we want to compare the two, this could be a chance to do so with still plenty of games to play.

Of course, if Nebraska can pull off the upset, all bets are off.

1 Burning Question: Can the Buckeye passing game travel?

There’s life in the passing game for Ohio State, but the resistance has been little more than wet tissue paper against teams with no where near the depth, athletic ability and pedigree of the Bucks. And, it has been at home for all but Maryland.

So here we go with J.T Barrett and company taking that much-maligned passing game on the road, and into an environment that is sure to be a step up from what he has faced over the last four weeks.

In order for Ohio State to be a contender in the Big Ten, as well as nationally, that passing game can’t just be for the home crowd, but has to be able to be a threat against much better opponents, on the road, and in tough circumstances. This isn’t the toughest it’ll face, but it does at least provide a gauge of things past and present for this year.

2 Key Stats:

4 and 10: That’s where OSU ranks in scoring offense and scoring defense in the entire country.

Its the only team in the Big Ten that can say that, and only Alabama and Washington are in that group across this great nation of ours. For all the hand-wringing and teeth gnashing going on in Columbus, the stats are beginning to show where they have under Urban Meyer. We’ll see where it all goes once the season plays out, but Nebraska by comparison is 77th and 73rd respectfully.

Nebraska will need to find some way to turn that stat on its head if it has any designs of staying close, let alone pulling off the shocker. It’s a tall order, but it is Nebraska and there’s that chance that the ‘Huskers rise up and put some pride on the line.

57: It’s the amount of tackles for loss Ohio State’s defense has for the season — tops in the country.

Yeah we’re staying with the Ohio State defense here. The bushel of tackles for loss go hand-in-hand with the deep and talented defensive line the Buckeyes come at teams in force with. It’ll be imperative for Nebraska to put together a game plan that can get the ball out of the hands of Tanner Lee faster than the rush can get there.

With the issues on the O-line in combination with a D-line that would like to eat it for lunch, this could be a disaster in waiting. Lee already has already thrown three pick-sixes on the season. Could the watch be on for yet another? By the way, guess what team is right there with Ohio State in tackles for loss? Yep, Northern Illinois, which had two pick-sixes and beat Nebraska in Memorial Stadium.

3 Key Players:

Tanner Lee, QB (Nebraska): The quarterback for Nebraska has to play lights out. There was a ton of hype surrounding the transfer from Tulane, but so far he’s not lived up to it — in fact he’s been miles away. It’s not all been on him with the issues surrounding the O-Line, but things have to turn around if Nebraska has any designs of making a bowl this year. Yes, I said making a bowl. That is no certainty with the schedule and development of this team that is still to occur.

Devine Ozigbo, RB (Nebraska): But it can’t all be on Lee. Big Red will need a running game as well. It doesn’t have to go for 200 on the ground or anything, but there has to be at least a threat of getting chunks the old fashioned way. If we haven’t stated it already, OSU’s D-line is deep, and the only way to wear it down some is to keep the pressure on to some extent with down-hill runs. If not, the athletes will pin their ears back and target Lee time after time — after time.

Parris Campbell, WR (Ohio State): You figure OSU will get yards on the ground with Barrett, Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins doing their thing, but everyone’s still looking for consistency and staying power in the passing game. That consistency comes from the emergence of a go-to guy at wide receiver, and over the past few weeks, that guy has been Campbell more often than not. He’s third in the Big Ten in yards receiving, but he needs to limit the drops and continue to step forward as a dynamic weapon Barrett can look to when the team needs a big play in third and long situations. That should be tested against Nebraska at times.

Prediction:

Ohio State 42, Nebraska 20

In another year this game would be closer. Nebraska just has not shown anything it can hang its hat on this year to expect the game to be close. And against offenses in the same stratosphere as Ohio State it has given up about 40 points per contest (Oregon and Wisconsin). You can expect the same type of output here — unless the ghosts of past forge their way into the Lincoln night.

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