2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Nebraska
The Buckeyes demolished Miami of Ohio, and set a record in most points scored in a quarter, all in lieu of Justin Fields, who passed for 4 touchdowns and ran for 2. The national media has been impressed with the Buckeyes, as they come into the week ranked 5th in the AP Poll, just a few points above 6th place Oklahoma. They still remain 6th in the Coaches poll, but a win this week could help them solidify a top 5 ranking.
ESPN’s College GameDay will be at this game, making it the 45th time the GameDay crew has made an appearance to an Ohio State game. The last time was for The Game in Columbus, OH. This appearance also marks the first time in 12 years that they will be in Lincoln, NE.
Both schools are still in a position to compete for the Big Ten Championship, and could potentially rematch since both Ohio State and Nebraska are in separate divisions. Ohio State still remains perfect for the year at 4-0 and looking for a statement win this season against “a team with a pulse” as they still have doubters in the national media. Nebraska comes in at 3-1, losing on the road at Colorado, but still hoping to make a shot at a Big Ten and Playoff appearance. A loss though could change their best outcome for the season.
Both teams completed their non-conference schedule and will be in Big Ten play moving forwards. Ohio State will need to focus on this game, and then prepare for another tough challenge with Michigan State coming to town before their first bye week.
Head Coach: Scott Frost
2019 Record: 3-1
Location: Lincoln, NE
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: Ohio State seems to be clicking in all cylinders on all 3 phases of the game; offense, defense, and special teams. They are tied for most blocked kicks in the country, and there has been a strong sense of emphasis from the coaching staff. After a 76-5 win against Miami(OH), it was clear the coaches and the team wanted to prepare for Nebraska, who will be the toughest team they have played up to this point.
Nationally, Ohio State is putting up impressive numbers, and is the only team in the country in top 5 scoring offense and defense. They rank 3rd in both. They also have the number 2 ranked defense in yards per game. Their offense has been just as impressive, and ranking 15th in total offense in yards per game. They have been very balanced with their offense, passing for 264.5 yards per game, and rushing for 260 yards per game. Ryan Day has left his imprint of his offense on this team, and it has so far been paying dividends.
Justine Fields has 19 total touchdowns this year. He currently is in the top 5 Heisman candidates, and has been laking a marquee game to help him launch that status, but you can bet he would rather be playing for a national championship this season. Through 4 games, has has passed for 880 yards, with 13 passing touchdowns, and still 0 interceptions. On the ground, which his ability has been the difference between the offenses from 2018 to 2019, he has ran for 150 yards and leads the team with 6 touchdowns. You can tell that the coaches are still making sure he prevents injury as the depth behind him is still developing, but he will need to open up more in Big Ten play as it becomes critical in some of these games to make a play with his natural abilities.
JK Dobbins had a quiet day against Miami, but he did not need to be used that much once the game got quickly out of hand. He currently has 477 yards on the ground with 5 touchdowns, which places him as the 5th leading rusher in the country. He will play a much bigger role this week, and might need to play all 4 quarters depending on what the Nebraska defense will allow. Master Teague has picked up his playing time as well, and sharing some of the carries. He now has 249 yards for the season, with 1 rushing touchdown. Expect Ryan Day to rotate when needed with the running backs, but this game should feature a heavy dose of Dobbins.
Three of the 4 veterans pace the receiving corp, as Ben Victor leads the group in yardage with 242 yards with 2 touchdowns on 14 catches. Not far behind is Chris Olave, who has become an all-around player on both offense and special teams. He has 228 yards on 13 catches and leads the team with 4 touchdowns. KJ Hill stills is Fields’ favorite target with 15 receptions and 179 yards to go along with 4 touchdowns. Austin Mack and Garrett Wilson have been finding a lot of playing time though, and still making a mark with the offense. The team has been able to spread the wealth so far their first 4 games, and 17 players have at least 1 catch. This must be why Day and Brian Hartline are finding success recruiting on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, they have been stout, and Chase Young now has 7 sacks for the season. Expect this to be the last season for the Predator, as next year he will be making plays on Sundays.
Nebraska Preview: Scott Frost is leading a Nebraska team in his second season that has a lot of expectations. His first season did not go so great, but they made strides at the end, and were competitive with some of the better teams in the conference. The trend has been that year 2 in a coaches career with a team usually leads to success, and that is why a lot of the media had Nebraska winning the Big Ten West this season, coupled with a down season for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Already they have a loss, but it was a non-conference loss so their goals of making it to Indianapolis at the end of the season is still a possibility. They do have little room for error though if they have aspirations of making it to the playoffs, or at least a New Years 6 bowl game. The game against Ohio State will be a mark of how good their team is, and how close they are to compete with some of the elite teams in the country. Scott Frost though is not expecting the Buckeyes of 2018 to be rolling into Lincoln, and has commented that this years edition is much better.
Adrian Martinez is the playmaker and quarterback for the Cornhuskers, and a lot of their success in this game and this season will rely on him. For the season, he has 1052 yards passing, along with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also has been a playmaker on the ground with 234 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Under his lead, the Cornhuskers are averaging 485.8 yards a game. Slowing him down will be the key for the Buckeye defense.
The Cornhuskers have split carries for their running backs, and have 3 different players that have been consistent. Maurice Washington leads the running backs with 268 yards and a touchdown. Dedrick Mills is 3rd on the team in rushing (behind Martinez) with 229 yards and 5 touchdowns. The last player who has been getting some carries is Wan’Dale Robinson, who is a similar athlete to Purdue’s Rondale Moore. He has 119 yards and touchdowns so far.
The Cornhuskers have 4 players who have over 100 yards receiving. The favorite target is a familiar name in JD Spielman, who has 383 yards and a touchdown so far this season. Robinson is the second leading receiver with 195 yards and 2 touchdowns. The TE Jack Stoll is third with 153 yards and a touchdown. Last is their running back Washington, who has 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Buckeye defense will have their hands full with key players.
The Cornhusker defense has not lived up to the Black Shirts yet, giving up 25.3 points per game and an average of 357 yards per game. But like most of the Buckeyes opponents, Nebraska will give Ohio State their best shot in hopes to win as a home underdog.
Buckeye Spotlight: The Defense. Normally this spot is reserved for a player, but the nation will be watching this game, and there is a lot of doubt about the Silver Bullets based on the competition to this point. If they are able to slow down and limit Nebraska like that have with their other 4 opponents, then this defense, and the team will make a statement, and get more credit and praise. The offense appears to be able to score when it needs, and just needs to play a complete game, but this might be the first game when the Buckeyes are required to play all 4 quarters.
Cornhusker Spotlight: Adrian Martinez. The versitle quarterback will be the difference maker for the success of Nebraska in this games. Ryan Day is familiar with Martinez, as Ohio State tried to recruit him, but was not confident in him after not having film for his senior year in high school. Martinez was the difference in what kept the game close last year in the Horseshoe, and will test how good the Buckeye defense really is.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 0-2. Scott Frost has faced Ohio State twice in his coaching career, and has a record of 0-2 against them. The first loss was in 2015 when he was the offensive coordinator at Oregon during the National Championship game. The second was last year when Nebraska lost to Ohio State in Columbus 26-31.
Prediction: This game will be the biggest test for the Buckeyes, who are ranking 3rd in the nation in scoring offense and scoring defense, the only team in the top 5 for both. Nebraska has not had the start they wanted after a loss to Colorado, and a near scare against Illinois on the road last week, but Scott Frost and company are looking for a statement win. This game has the trappings of an Iowa from 2017 and Purdue of 2018 type of game, but the way the Ohio State staff gas been focused, and approaching the season 1 week at a time, they will be prepared as well. The biggest challenge for them is if they get off to a slow start offensively again, and have to play catch-up since the Cornhuskers have been good on the offensive side of the ball so far this season. Expect this one to be close for a while, but then the Buckeyes pull away and leave Lincoln with a 5-0 record.