Ohio Stadium will be rocking Saturday night as Nebraska makes it's first trip to Columbus since the Eisenhower administration. Both Nebraska and Ohio State seem like teams on the rise, and both are coming off big conference opening wins.
For Nebraska, they dug themselves out of a 27-10 hole against Wisconsin, and Ohio State went to East Lansing and got into a good old fashioned B1G street fight. Both teams showed a lot of character in their wins, each in their own way, and won using a facet of their football team that had been much maligned for either this season or over the course of multiple seasons.
For Nebraska, Taylor Martinez brought his team back from a huge deficit, and punched some holes in the theory that he can't handle the pressure of having to bring his team back from behind. For the Bucks, the defense showed up in a big way, nit giving up many big plays and absolutely stuffing Le'Veon Bell.
So has this now a matchup of the Irresistible Force meeting the Unmovable Object? No, but both teams look to be improving, and for one of these teams, a victory will be rightly called a statement game.
For Ohio State to make a statement, this is what they'll have to do:
Start Out Fast: OSU has had a penchant for sleepwalking through early portions of the game, and if they do that Saturday, it could dampen what is expected to be a raucous atmosphere. If the offense can get a quick score (or two) and the defense can stop Nebraska early, the 'Shoe will be deafening, and it might get OSU rolling downhill. Although Martinez had a great comeback at home last week, he seems to get rattled on the road easier, and it could lead to a turnover or two.
Keep The Foot On The Accelerator And Forget About Last Year: If OSU gets rolling, don't stop. Urban Meyer isn't a 'take your foot off the gas' kind of guy, and that's one of the things we all seem to like about Urb so far. Momentum builds and feeds off of itself. But eventually they'll stall. When they do, they need to forget that what happened in Lincoln last year. This year isn't last year, Braxton Miller isn't the same player, and Urban Meyer is the coach, not a staff in transition.
Limit The Big Play: Nebraska has a dynamic offense, and it's a stretch to say that OSU will completely shut them down. I don't see that happening for the whole game, but if the Buckeyes can limit explosive plays and win the field position battle, they've won half the battle. Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez are arguably the best 1-2 running combination in the conference, and OSU will have their hands full.
Embrace The Moment: This game is why you come to a place like Ohio State. Urban Meyer has inculcated his team in living in the spotlight, and being able to play for something in the Year Of Probation. This is that 'something'. With the way the conference has shaken out so far, Nebraska looks like a legitimate contender for the conference championship. Knocking them off would be huge for this team.
Prediction: With Jordan Hall out, it's going to be imperative for Carlos Hyde and maybe Brionte Dunn to pick up some of the running slack, and take some punishment away from Braxton Miller. Miller's going to need to make a couple of big plays in the air and on the ground, and Nebraska's defense gives up yards and big plays. I think Ohio State starts out fast and keeps Nebraska playing from behind all night, but this year, OSU doesn't cough up the lead.
Ohio State 31, Nebraska 23