5 bold predictions for Ohio State in its opener against Nebraska
Here we go. It’s game on — hello, Nebraska Cornhuskers — and I have a feeling there’s going to be some head scratching at the end of Week 8, which is really Week 1 for the B1G. Why? Because it’s 2020, which means anything can happen. I do not, however, think that translates to Ohio State’s opener. Nebraska coach Scott Frost is in desperation mode this season, but it’s still unclear who his starting quarterback will be when the Cornhuskers kick off against the Buckeyes on Saturday (noon, FOX).
Still, there are a few things I think I know. Here are 5 bold predictions for Ohio State in its opener:
1. A first-half shootout
The first half will be a shootout. Nebraska returns every starter from its offense and scared the Buckeyes the last time it traveled to Columbus, leading at halftime 21-16. Eventually, the Buckeyes came back to win a squeaker, 36-31, but they turned the ball over 3 times and allowed Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez to throw for 266 yards and run for 72 and 2 touchdowns.
Of course, last year was payback in Lincoln, as Ohio State rolled 48-7, with 580 yards of offense.
Expect something in the middle this year. With new faces making their names in the Ohio State secondary, I can see these two offenses duking it out in the first two quarters. Expect a high score at the half — I’m thinking high-20s, at least, from both squads.
2. Buckeyes freshmen will impact both sides of the ball
A Buckeyes freshman will make a difference on each side of the ball against the Huskers. Who? I’m saying wide receiver Gee Scott Jr. on offense and lineman Ty Hamilton on defense. Both are going to see time and make plays in Game 1.
Scott is just one of many freshman wide receivers who could play against Nebraska. And while most have been talking about Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, I’m betting on Scott, the 6-3 Seattle native who practiced with Richard Sherman before coming to Columbus.
On defense, while there could be some freshman faces seeing time in the secondary, I’m going with a lineman — which is another position that could need depth. Hamilton fits the bill. At 6-3 and 278 pounds, the Pickerington, Ohio, native is versatile — he played defensive tackle, end and linebacker in high school. He’s listed as a lineman on the Buckeyes depth chart, and I can see him providing valuable depth on that side of the ball.
3. Marcus Hooker will make a huge play
Ohio State’s Marcus Hooker will start at safety and make at least one game-changing play. Maybe it’s in the first half. Maybe it’s to break up a big pass, or grab an INT to stop a drive. Whatever it is, he will make his presence known.
The safety position is a big question mark on this team, and will continue to be with the recent season-ending injury to freshman Kourt Williams. Backup Josh Proctor will help in run support and has insane athletic ability, but watch Hooker fly to the ball. I think he’s going to get the chance to establish himself as the starter in this game, and he will take advantage.
4. Buckeyes will roll, but not like usual
Ohio State will not come close in this game to their average winning margin over Nebraska — which is 34.4 points per game in 5 victories. Expect something much closer than that. It probably won’t be a close game, but because it’s OSU’s first game of this strange season, I bet it’s about a 17-point spread.
Call it 45-28, Buckeyes.
5. Meet Master Teague …
In the end, a big difference will be made by running back Master Teague. This is the guy who will establish himself early on as the choice out of the backfield. I’m expecting a big day, something akin to 120-plus yards on the ground with another 40 or so receiving. This will also be the game that sets the standard: Teague will be the featured back this season with Trey Sermon serving as the backup.
It’s been a bit of a road back for Teague, who suffered an Achilles injury last year and forced coaches to find insurance in Sermon, the transfer from Oklahoma. Inconsistency has been the book on Teague in his first few seasons, but I say that’s a thing of the past. He starts his new campaign with a bang, and in the end, Teague will ice this high-scoring first game by running out the clock in the fourth.
And that’s how the season will begin.
Let’s get it on.