The Ohio State-Nebraska rivalry has been one-sided over the years.
Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska’s only victory over the Buckeyes came in their first conference matchup, which was during the short Luke Fickell era.
Since then, Ohio State has won six straight, scoring at least 36 points in each game. Last year’s game was a 52-17 blowout.
Nebraska has had a rough time in the Big Ten. The Scott Frost regime has not lived up to expectations, and he could be on the hot seat with another losing season.
That said, their 3-6 record doesn’t tell the whole story.
In their six losses, five of them were within one score. So far, the Cornhuskers have played against three conference opponents ranked by the College Football Playoff committee, and lost by only thirteen points between them. Michigan State, currently the top-ranked team in the conference in both the CFP rankings and the AP poll, needed overtime to beat Nebraska.
However, the committee doesn’t take moral victories into account, so the fact remains that Nebraska has only won one conference game this year.
Here’s what Ohio State can look forward to against the Cornhuskers:
Ohio State vs Nebraska Preview
Ohio State’s Defense vs Nebraska’s Offense
Nebraska’s offense flows through the quarterback. Adrian Martinez is not only the passing leader, but he’s also Nebraska’s leader in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns.
The Cornhusker’s offense features a lot of quarterback runs and options. As a result, Martinez is 12th in the Big Ten in rushing yards, and third in the conference in rushing touchdowns. Only Kenneth Walker and TreVeyon Henderson have more rushing scores than Martinez.
While Martinez puts up the yardage, he’s not incredibly efficient. Martinez only has six fewer yards than Stroud, but Stroud has twice the touchdowns and half the interceptions.
The Cornhusker’s quarterback has the arm to put up yards, but he doesn’t have a high football IQ. He constantly makes poor decisions and incorrect reads, especially under pressure.
Michigan’s plan was to take Martinez out of the game. It nearly worked, but they left their coverage downfield exposed. Ohio State will look to do the same, but maintain the integrity of their passing defense.
When Martinez is pressured, that’s when he is prone to making dumb mistakes. But if he gets out of the pocket, he can extend plays and cause damage. Ohio State will want to put the pressure on, but keep him in the pocket.
If Ohio State can’t generate pressure, Martinez can sit back and wait for a receiver to come open. This gameplan appears to favor Ohio State, since the Buckeyes’ defense are first in the conference in sacks, while the Cornhuskers have given up the third-most.
Samori Toure is Martinez’s most dangerous target, so if Ohio State can keep him covered, they will make things difficult for Nebraska.
Ohio State’s Offense vs Nebraska’s Defense
Nebraska plays a similar defense as Ohio State. They have four upfront, with the outside corners either in man or deep zone, and the rest of the defense playing zone in the middle.
There’s nothing extraordinary about Nebraska’s defense. They rank around the middle of the conference in nearly every category.
Given that Ohio State leads the conference in both rushing yards per attempt and passing yards per attempt, the advantage goes to the Buckeyes.
Again, nothing about Nebraska’s defense stands out either way. So while they haven’t shut anyone completely down, they also haven’t given up any more than 256 passing yards in a game.
Except for the Tulsa game, in which Stroud played through an injured shoulder, Stroud has never been held to fewer than 266 passing yards.
The Cornhuskers’ rushing defense averages to middle-of-the-pack, but it’s been more boom or bust. They held Walker to only 61 yards when they played Michigan State, but gave up 204 yards to Michigan.
If Ohio State’s offensive line can impose their will on Nebraska, then Henderson and the rest of the backs will have a good day. The reason Michigan was able to run the ball was because of their offensive line, and they wore out the defense by the fourth quarter.
At the end of the day, there’s no reason to believe that Ohio State will end their streak of high-scoring games against Nebraska. Their lowest-scoring game of the year was their last, which was the 33-point effort against Penn State. The Nittany Lions had the best defense Ohio State has faced, and they still couldn’t slow the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is favored by at least 14 points across most betting sites. While Nebraska has a pattern of covering the spread, it will take a miracle to upset Ohio State.