Friday, October 7, 2011

Ohio State vs. No. 14 Nebraska—Week 6 Game Outlook, History Lesson, and Prediction

Understatement Alert in 3,...2,...1,...

Ohio State is coming off one of their absolute worst performances in years.

With a mere 10 seconds left in regulation and trailing Michigan State 10-0, the Buckeyes narrowly avoided being shutout at home for the first time since 1982 (a 6-0 loss to Wisconsin) on a touchdown pass to Evan Spencer from backup QB, and sack-taking-artiste' extraordinaire, Joe Bauserman.

MSU sacked Miller and Bauserman nine times and held OSU to just 178 total yards (143 passing, 35 rushing) for the game.

It can't get worse for OSU this Saturday night -- as the Cornhuskers welcome the Buckeyes in their inaugural Big Ten conference home-opener and Ohio State's first-ever trip to Lincoln -- but it may not get much better either.

While the Nebraska defense has given up points and yards aplenty, everything will depend on if this team and these players were able refocus this week and mentally move past last weeks pathetic effort. The same goes for the coaching staff, particularly offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.

Bollman has come under intense fire from Buckeye Nation fans all across the Interwebs on forums, message boards, blogs, and Twitter.

It seems as if 10 years of frustration stemming from the lethargic, non-creative, and completely predictable offensive play-calling of the Tressel/Fickell-ball era has finally come to a head, and Buckeye fans have had enough.

Urban Meyer holding on line one.....

Whoops, daydreaming again -- Let's get back to the game.

Brief Game Outlook / Players of Note

Ohio State and Nebraska are both looking to avoid an 0-2 start in conference play after the Buckeyes struggled-mightily in a 10-7 home loss to MSU and the Cornhuskers were welcomed to the conference rather unceremoniously by the Badgers, losing 48-17 in Madison.

This season, each team has had more success on the ground and both are going to want to establish the run, and then mix in the pass when the defenses aren't looking.

Ohio State hasn't been able to do that very often. They must stop reading like an open book to opposing defenses with their personnel use and formations if they are to have a chance in this game, or any other for that matter.

Offensively, Nebraska is averaging nearly 38 points and 418 yards per game. Their defense is allowing 27 points and 377 yards per contest.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez has thrown for 823 passing yards, with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has 482 on the ground and 8 rushing touchdowns. His QB rating is 118.

Jamal Turer and Quincy Enunwa are the top two receivers for Nebraska. Turner has 13 catches for 223 yards. Enunwa has 9 catches for 140 yards and has scored once.

Rex Burkhead leads the Husker ground-attack with 81 carries for 516 yards (6.4 ypc) and is tied with Martinez with eight rushing touchdowns.

The Ohio State offense is averaging just over 300 total yards and just under 24 points scored per game, while the Silver Bullet defense is currently 13th in the nation in total defense (285 yards per game) and ranks 11th in points allowed per game (16.4). They have have six interceptions and 10 QB sacks through five games.

Braxton Miller looked lost last week. He played a lot like a true freshman and made some bad decisions. At times, he definitely had that deer in the headlights look. Most of the blame for that lies on the staff for seemingly never coaching him up on the sidelines. That is inexcusable and if it doesn't change, this staff may just ruin the kid for the 2012 incoming staff.

Miller has 291 passing yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has 118 yards rushing and a current QB rating of 129.

Wide receiver Devin Smith leads the Buckeyes with eight receptions for 183 yards and three scores but is not listed on the two-deep depth chart this week.

With Smith not listed, DeVier Posey suspended yet again for taking money for work not performed, and Verlon Reed out for the season with a torn ACL, the Buckeyes must rely on youth over experience.

Evan Spencer, Chris Fields, and Corey Brown, who may return from an ankle injury that has caused him to miss the last three games, will be asked to get open and make plays to help move the Buckeye passing game forward through the air, instead of backwards on the ground via the sack.

Tight end Jake Stoneburner has been deafeningly quiet lately and the Bucks desperately need him to be more involved in the offense.

Rumor has it that RB Carlos Hyde spoke out at halftime against the poor playcalling and as a result, did not see the field at all afterwards, despite averaging over 6 yards per carry in the first half.

Hyde is listed as the No. 2 back behind Jordan Hall who gets the start this week. Dan Herron, who was also slated to return this week, will join Posey in missing at least one more game before possibly returning.

Hall has rushed for 216 (4.3 ypc) yards with one touchdown, while Hyde has 295 (4.8 ypc) yards rushing and three touchdowns.

The ground-game and pass protection should each get a boost this week with the return of OL Mike Adams. Unlike Posey, Herron and OL Marcus Hall, Adams has apparently been following the rules that he had previously broken as part of the Tat-5 scandal that landed him on suspension earlier this year.

Nebraska may be new to the Big Ten this year, but they are a perfect fit in the conference. Just like Ohio State, they play traditional, smash-mouth football. The Cornhuskers have been more dynamic on offense than the Buckeyes, but the edge on defense goes to Ohio State.

Something has to give. In order for that something to give in favor of the Buckeyes, here's what has to happen.

The Buckeye offense had better stop being so vanilla and change it up this week in order to score enough points to win.

The Buckeye defense should do to Nebraska what MSU did last week to Ohio State. Load the box and stop Martinez and Burkhead and force Martinez to beat them with his arm.

Ohio State—Nebraska History Lesson and Trends

• Ohio State is 2-0 all-time vs. Nebraska.

• Ohio State is 21-4 in their last 25 Big Ten games.

• Ohio State is 198-78-10 all-time in Big Ten road games.

• Ohio State last started 0-2 in Big Ten conference play in 2004.

• Ohio State defense is second in the Big Ten with 6 INTs through five games.

• Ohio State defense has allowed just five 100-yard rushers in their last 39 games.

• Ohio State is 61-32-5 in Big Ten road openers since joining the conference in 1913.

• Ohio State is 114-63-8 on the road all-time in the month of October (360-127-28 overall).

• Ohio State has held 65 of 78 opponents to 21 points or fewer since the start of the 2005 season.

• Ohio State is 31-9 in conference road games since 2001, including a stellar 21-3 mark since 2005.

• Ohio State has not lost to a member of the Big Ten Legends Division since a 33-7 defeat at Iowa in 2004.

• Nebraska is the 4th winningest program in college football history with 841 wins; Ohio State is 5th with 834 (822 counting vacated 2010 season).

• Nebraska is 84-13-4 all-time in conference home openers.

• Nebraska has started 0-2 in conference play just once since 1968.

• Nebraska is 17-5 at home under under coach Bo Pelini (2008-present).

• Nebraska is 17-10 in conference games (Big 12 and Big Ten combined) under Pelini.

• Nebraska has lost it's last three conference home-openers (2008 Missouri; 2009 Texas Tech; 2010 Texas).

Final Thoughts and Score Prediction

The OSU defense has played very well most of the season and seems to be improving each week, with the emergence of young players such as Bradley Roby, Ryan Shazier, and Christian Bryant.

It would certainly be nice to see the offense follow suit one of these days -- hopefully sooner than later -- and play at least somewhat closer to level we all thought they could play when the 2011 season began.

For the record, it would be great -- very much preferred, actually -- is this prediction is totally wrong, but the Buckeyes are a double-digit underdog in this one with good reason, when considering how average they have looked in every game other than in week one vs. perennial doormat, Akron.

Ohio State is capable of winning this game if they fix what's broken.

It's not too late to right the ship, but this just might be too tough a week to do it...

Nebraska 24
Ohio State 20

"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson

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Image (top right) copyright: Marvin Fong / The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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