With both teams coming off of horrible losses, this may not have the build-up that it once had, but it is still a huge game in the Big Ten between two powerhouse schools with tradition. With that said, here are the keys to getting back in the win column against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday…
Taylor Martinez – This sophomore QB is a headcase, makes poor decisions, and throws the ball as if there is razor-sharp barbed wire directly above his head. Seriously, if you thought Vince Young or Terrelle Pryor’s throwing motion needed work, Martinez makes them both look like Tom Brady. Sounds like a good guy for the Silver Bullet defense to tee off on, right? Well, if it weren’t for the minor issue of him running a 4.4 second 40 yard dash time, then yes.
Martinez has only a 50% completion percentage, so the Bucks will need to make him win the game with his arm. He has attempted either 21 or 22 passes in all five of their games this year, and when he makes a mistake (INT) more are sure to come. He has three zero interception games and two multiple interception games. Keeping him from running, however, is easier said than done, as he has more rushing attempts than their main running back at this point in the season. I’m not expecting the Buckeyes to put the fear of God in him and make him want to stay in the pocket, but we have a perfect player in Tyler Moeller to spy Martinez throughout the game. Moeller has the speed and athletic ability to contain the QB and keep him from cutting through the D-Line for a big play. If we can limit him to no rushing/scrambling attempts over 20 yards, and under 75 yards total on the ground (just for him), then we stand a good chance of winning the game.
Rex Burkhead – Rex Burkhead (junior, 5’11”, 210 lbs) is a decent running back, but is usually overshadowed by Martinez and his long, open-field runs. He typically gets between 15-20 touches a game, is not a receiving threat whatsoever, but has found the endzone (at least once) in each of Nebraska’s games thus far. OSU will need to force Burkhead to be the main ball carrier on Saturday by showing that we have an answer for Martinez’s scrambling. If this can be done, Burkhead is no more of a threat to our run defense than Bell or Baker from MSU.
The rest of the Cornhusker offense is nothing to write home and brag about. They have three young receivers, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner, and Kenny Bell, who all have decent size and speed, as well as two athletic tight ends in Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton. However, when you’re looking to throw the ball just twenty times a game, it’s nearly impossible to pick out one person to focus on. Ohio State will simply need to man-up on this group and limit them to short and moderate gains. Some passes will be open when a team is 80% focused on their run game, but keeping them limited on big plays will be the key.
Nebraska Defense/Special Teams – The defense and special teams, much like their offense, is no stranger to big plays. Unfortunately for this unit, they tend to be giving them up quite frequently. Throwing out the Chattanooga game, because it was a against a glorified high school team, Nebraska has given up a TD play of at least 46 yards in every game. Fresno State had a 67 yard punt return for a TD (Chris Fields and Jordan Hall should be salivating at that), and Washington, Wyoming, and Wisconsin (not sure why the fetish with “W” universities) all had passing TDs of 46+ yards. Granted, for this to happen in our game, we will actually need to complete a pass. However, it is good to know that the option is out there, should we choose to use it. On the other hand, their usually decent run defense has been an open door this season. Opposing teams (again, not counting the Little Sisters of the Poor) are averaging 176 yards on the ground against Nebraska. In order to come away with a victory, OSU must have 176+ yards on the ground and/or the ability to complete a deep ball on more than one occasion.
10/8 OSU vs. Nebraska Prediction: OSU 20 - Nebraska 17
Ohio State’s offense will, again, not look as sharp as it could, but the running game and a couple of big passing plays will make the difference. Look for Carlos Hyde to continue punishing would-be tacklers and for he and Hall, with an occasional Jaamal Berry run, to serve as a Thunder/Lightning combo against the Nebraska Blackshirts. On top of that, excellent field position (thanks to returns from Jordan Hall and punts by Ben Buchanon) will help the Buckeye defense in standing strong and continuing to be the backbone of this team. I also think that our defensive backs (most likely CJ Barnett and Travis Howard) will come away with two interceptions as Martinez gets frustrated and attempts to force a couple of dumb, deep passes.