Nebraska: 5 things I'd like to see from Cornhuskers vs. Buckeyes
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are on a two-game winning streak. They will have to pull off a major upset to make it three in a row.
Big Red rolls into Columbus this weekend (noon ET Saturday, Fox) for a Big Ten road game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 10th in this year’s initial College Football Playoff rankings, which were released on Tuesday.
According to Nebraska’s Sports Information Department staff, this is a meeting between the two programs with the most wins in major college football over the past 40 years. Nebraska has 373 wins in that span, just one ahead of Ohio State’s 372.
Nebraska is about an 18-point underdog according to top sports books, which is not a surprise considering that Nebraska is 2-6 and OSU is 7-1.
But the Cornhuskers have been on an upswing in the past few weeks. To keep that going, here are 5 things I’d like to see from the Cornhuskers against the Buckeyes:
Make OSU stop your run game
For the past few weeks, Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo has had the best stretch of his college career and quarterback Adrian Martinez has looked healthy, making defenses account for him both as a passer and a runner. Add in change-of-pace running back Maurice Washington and the Cornhuskers suddenly look like a dangerous team on the ground. The Buckeyes have a talented defensive front seven but not always a consistent one. Nebraska should keep running right at OSU until the hosts, ranked 61st in the nation in run defense, prove they can stop it.
DBs keep heads on swivels
Nebraska allowed 105 receiving yards by Bethune-Cookman’s Steffon Francois on just three catches last week. The Buckeyes have way more danger lurking than that, including playmakers like Terry McLaurin, K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon. The Cornhuskers defensive backs are going to have their hands full against an attack which ranks second in the country in passing at 383.8 yards per game.
Eye on penalties
The Cornhuskers have been much better about this in the past couple of weeks, committing 11 penalties over the past two games combined after averaging almost that many per game in the first six weeks. Still, little niggling things keep cropping up, like three false start penalties last week — at home, no less. If the offensive linemen have a hard time keeping their poise or focus in Lincoln against a far inferior foe, that does not bode well for the situation they will face at Ohio Stadium.
Keep trying tempo game
The talk going into last week’s game against B-CU was that Nebraska wanted to implement more of coach Scott Frost’s up-tempo concepts. The expressed goal was 90 to 100 plays. The Cornhuskers did not come close, running 64 plays, but that’s misleading. The second-string offense played the second half in a blowout. In the first half Nebraska ran 41 plays, and if it had sustained that pace the team would have at least gotten close to its wish. It will be really hard to maintain that tempo against the Buckeyes but OSU has not seen that kind of pace much this season so it’s worth a try.
Whole defense takes step up
Mohamed Barry had one of his best games in a Nebraska uniform last week, registering 11 tackles including seven solo and three for loss, and the linebacker added a sack. The whole Cornhuskers defense will have to rise up to that level this week. Nebraska allowed 355 yards of offense and seven third-down conversions in 16 tries against an overmatched B-CU squad. If the Wildcats can attain numbers like that, imagine what Ohio State can do with its talented skill players.