Prior to each Ohio State game this year, LGHL is going to bring you some “bold predictions”. This will include somewhere around five predictions for the game, whether it be passing yards, points scored, sacks, or a number of other things that we could see happening during the game.
We’d love to hear your bold predictions. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your bold predictions in the comments.
Jeremy Ruckert will at least tie Jake Stoneburner’s school record for touchdowns by a tight end
There’s no doubt that tight end Jeremy Ruckert has become a bigger part of the offense over the last four games. After starting the year with six catches for 81 yards in the first four games, Ruckert has hauled in 13 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns over the last four games. It’s no coincidence that after quarterback C.J. Stroud sat out against Akron, Ruckert started seeing more targets the following week.
With his next touchdown, Ruckert will tie Jake Stoneburner’s school record for most receiving touchdowns by a tight end. Stoneburner finished his Ohio State career with 13 receiving touchdowns from 2008-12. By comparison, Rickey Dudley, who was a first round NFL Draft pick, only had nine touchdown receptions at Ohio State, but he only played football for two seasons in Columbus.
If Ruckert gets one touchdown reception early, it’s likely he’ll see a second one later in the game. The senior has scored at least one touchdown in eight games during his college career. In half of those games Ruckert has went on to score a second touchdown. No matter what he does today, it’s unlikely we see Jake Stoneburner’s record stand at the end of the season.
Ohio State will record at least 10 tackles for loss
After starting the season with just five TFLs in the first two games, Ohio State’s defense has turned up the heat, registering at least six TFLs in five of the last six games. The best mark of the season so far came a couple weeks ago against Indiana when the Buckeyes notched 14 tackles for loss. The other games with double digit stops behind the line of scrimmage came when Ohio State made 12 negative stops against Akron.
Nebraska was brutal at keeping opposing defenses out of the backfield earlier in the year, when they gave up 10 TFLs to Oklahoma, followed by allowing Michigan State to record 11 TFLs the following week. The Cornhuskers have righted the ship a bit over the last month, allowing just 15 tackles for loss over the last four games.
Not only has Haskell Garrett found his footing after a tough start to the season, talented freshmen Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau have adjusted to the college game and are starting to make more of an impact. There has been a definite change on the pressure that Ohio State is bringing since Matt Barnes took over the defensive play calling duties from Kerry Coombs.
Adrian Martinez loves to try and make plays with his feet when the pocket breaks down. While Martinez can sometimes gain positive yardage, I don’t think we see that happen all that much today. Right now the pursuit of the Ohio State defense is strong. Martinez trying to do too much will cost the Cornhuskers on a number of plays, while the Buckeyes bottle up the Nebraska running backs on their way to at least 10 tackles for loss.
Ohio State returns a kickoff for a touchdown for the first time since 2010
Emeka Egbuka hasn’t gotten a ton of chances to return kickoffs this year, but he has been electric when he has gotten the opportunity. Egbuka is averaging 35.2 yards per kick return this year. The freshman almost housed a kickoff against Maryland, going 67 yards before getting tripped up.
With the way college football handles kickoffs now, there aren’t nearly as many opportunities to return a kick for a score. Teams often feel the wiser move is to call for a fair catch and take the football at the 25-yard-line. The last time Ohio State returned a kickoff was back in 2010 when Jordan Hall went 85 yards against Michigan for a score.
With some of the games earlier in the year, Egbuka didn’t have quite as many opportunities to possibly return a kick since the Buckeyes weren’t giving up many points, which cut down on the opponents kickoffs. Nebraska should be good for a few scores at least, so Egbuka should see four or five kicks, which should allow him a couple chances to return one for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes will rush for over 200 yards
This prediction might not seem “bold” since Ohio State is averaging 201 yards rushing per game. If you look into the numbers a little more, you’ll be able to see why it’s a little bolder than you might think.
The Buckeyes started the season racking up at least 200 yards on the ground in four of their first five games of the season. Since then Ohio State has failed to reach the 200-yard mark in each of their last three games, The Buckeyes aren’t struggling to run the football though, as they have ran for at least 160 yards in each of those games.
Nebraska has been solid against the run this year, only allowing Michigan to rush for at least 200 yards this year. Oklahoma and Minnesota got close to reaching that mark, with the Sooners running for 194 yards and the Golden Gophers rolling up 182 yards on the ground. There have been some holes in the rush defense of the Cornhuskers, which could get exposed real quick by TreVeyon Henderson. If the freshman is able to break a couple runs early, it shouldn’t take too much work for Ohio State to crack the 200-yard mark.
Ohio State will be the first team to register at least 10 plays of 20 yards or more against Nebraska this year
One thing the Cornhuskers have done a great job at this year is limiting the number of big plays by their opponents. So far this season Nebraska’s opponents have just 41 plays of at least 20 yards through nine games. Take away the nine returns that have gone for 20+ yards and those numbers get even more impressive.
Unfortunately those numbers are going to take a hit today, since Ohio State not only averages over eight yards per play, the Buckeyes have 77 plays that have gone for over 20 yards through eight games this season. With the weapons that Ohio State has on offense, it feels pretty much like an impossible task for Nebraska to limit the Buckeyes to less than 10 plays of 20 yards or more. Once Ohio State gets rolling, their offense is really tough to stop.