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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview: Nebraska at Ohio State
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Martinez 2011c

- Saturday, October 6, 2012

- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, OH

- Nebraska at Ohio State

- 8:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ABC -

Undefeated Ohio State faces what may be its toughest test of the year as the 2012 season reaches the halfway point Saturday night at the Horseshoe. Former OSU captain Bo Pelini brings his 21st-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers to Columbus where he’ll try to collect his second win in as many tries against the No. 12 Buckeyes.

Pelini and the Huskers set a record for the school’s greatest comeback a year ago in Lincoln when they overcame a 21-point Ohio State lead in the second half to top the Buckeyes 34-27, and you can bet the bitter memory of that loss lingers with this year’s OSU team. Following their bruising win over a tough Michigan State squad a week ago, Urban Meyer said he felt his team came together in a way that proved to him what they’re made of, and they’ll need more of that togetherness Saturday night in order to remain unbeaten.

This matchup is compelling well beyond the storied histories of the two programs and the prime-time national telecast with Brent and Herbie. The collision of two ranked teams in the beleaguered Big Ten may be a rare occurrence this season, and as the conference wheat begins to separate from the chaff, Nebraska (4-1, 1-0) and Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) look like two of the kernels worth watching closely the rest of the way.

It’s also a duel of two of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the conference, if not the entire country. Braxton Miller (302 yd avg.) and Taylor Martinez (271.4 yd avg) are currently #2 and #3 respectively in total offense in the Big Ten, and their teams usually sink or swim based on the performances of their offensive leaders. Lately there’s been a lot of swimming going on.

This will be just the fourth meeting between the two teams, with Ohio State winning in 1956 and 1957, and then the big comeback win for Nebraska in Lincoln last year. Pelini is in his 5th year at Nebraska, with a 43-17 overall record. The Huskers head coach is a native of Youngstown where he played at Cardinal Mooney. Pelini played at Ohio State from 1987-90, starting at safety his last two years at OSU, and serving as a captain for the 1990 season.

State of the Bucks

After a lot of early season hand-wringing by outsiders and media people about Braxton Miller’s durability and the number of rushing carries he was getting, the OSU coaches have made clear that he is their best offensive weapon, and they’re going to call his number as often as they feel they must to win football games.

Hyde Nebraska2011bWell, Miller is still plenty sore after last week’s physical test against the Spartans, a game that saw him injured seriously enough to force him from the field twice, only to return and gut it out. The first was a head-on collision on the sidelines with an equipment trunk after being hit late by a Spartan defender, and the second was an apparent hyperextension of his knee in a non-contact situation, but one that caused him obvious pain.

If nothing else he proved what a tough competitor he is by insisting on returning to action. His teammates have taken notice this week as they watched him try to battle back in preparation for Nebraska. He downplayed the injury in his postgame remarks to the media, but the staff and the players now know what he went through to stay in that game. Braxton = Classy and tough. He’ll be there Saturday.

Elsewhere the news is not as good. Starting tailback Jordan Hall has a partial tear of the PCL  and will miss at least this week’s game, but Carlos Hyde returned against MSU and played well down the stretch, so he should be the mainstay at running back. Hyde (pictured) had 104 yards rushing, including a 63-yard TD run against the Huskers a year ago.

Safety C.J. Barnett has missed two games with an ankle injury, and Meyer called him “a maybe” for Saturday. DT Michael Bennet has yet to play in a game this year, but his groin injury has improved steadily, and Meyer has said he will play this week. Defensive end Nathan Williams has played very well, and he continues to get healthier each week, and is ready to go.

The Buckeyes rank 5th in the Big Ten in both scoring offense (33.6) and total offense (418.2 yds), while Nebraska is No. 1 in both categories, at 44.8 ppg and 521.4 yds. On defense, OSU is giving up lots of yardage (10th in total defense - 376.4 ypg) but not many points (3rd in scoring defense - 17.0 ppg). Nebraska has had troubles on defense as well, ranking 6th in total defense (340.8 ypg) and 7th in scoring defense (20.6 ppg)

Nebraska - Key Personnel

NebraskalogoThe Cornhuskers come in with 2012 wins over Southern Miss, Arkansas State, and Idaho State sandwiched around a 36-30 loss to UCLA in Pasadena on their non-conference slate. Then last week they came close to replicating the 2011 OSU game, falling behind Wisconsin at home by 17 points before staging a furious rally over the last quarter and a half to edge the Badgers 30-27.

Their three-year starter at quarterback Taylor Martinez is the triggerman of Pelini’s spread attack. In his first two seasons as the Huskers’ QB, Martinez was as erratic passing the football as he was dynamic running it, but he has made great strides throwing the ball so far in 2012. In fact, he currently leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency (169.8) while completing 67.8% of his throws for 1,059 yards and 11 TD’s, with just one interception in 121 attempts.

The thing that makes this offense so challenging for Ohio State is the presence of very talented players at all the skill positions. They rush for 305.8 yards per game to lead the conference, and they have four capable tailbacks, all of whom are likely to see action. All-Big Ten returnee Rex Burkhead (273 yds, 9.4 yd avg, 3 TD) leads that group, but the speedy Ameer Abdullah (486 yds, 6.2 avg, 5 TD) actually has more rushing yardage and TD’s this season. Martinez has 298 rushing yards of his own, and three more TD’s. Imani Cross and Youngstown’s Braylon Heard round out a very deep running back corps.

Pelini8rThere are several solid receiving threats as well, and they benefit from defenses’ attention to the Huskers’ prolific running game. Kyler Reed is a very talented and versatile tight end, and Kenny Bell (15 rec, 330 yds, 4 TD) and Quincy Enunwa (16 rec, 173 yds, 1 TD) are the most productive of a solid WR group. Jamal Turner is another Husker receiver who can hurt an opponent with his speed and elusiveness in the passing or kick return games.

On defense this is a senior-heavy group led up front by ends Cameron Meredith, a 2nd team all-conference pick a year ago, and senior Eric Martin. Tackle Baker Steinkuhler adds the experience of a 31-game starter in the middle of the defensive line.

Will Compton is the most productive guy in the linebacker unit, a three year starter at middle linebacker with 44 tackles to go with 6 TFL and 3 sacks so far in 2012. The secondary is probably better at safety than at corner, with two seniors starting at the safety spots in P.J. Smith and Daimion Stafford.

The Huskers are also very solid on special teams, with Bell and Abdullah providing dangerous threats in the kick return game, while punter/kicker Brett Maher could be the best in the Big Ten at both jobs.

Idle Speculation

ohio-stadium-nightThis is a revenge-minded Buckeye team that will be playing a night game at home in front of a well-lubricated crowd in an intimidating venue. But these Huskers play in front of huge crowds every week, and they had to gain a lot of confidence by taking down the defending Big Ten champions last week. It should be close all the way

The Husker offense will almost certainly give the OSU defense problems at times, with the versatility and talent they bring to the party, and most of the pundits are forecasting a high-scoring affair. Nebraska has scored at least 30 points in every game so far, and while the quality of the opposition in three of their four wins has been questionable, the weapons they have are for real.

Ohio State will undoubtedly try to run the ball against a somewhat suspect Husker run defense. OSU piled up 204 yards rushing against a Spartan team touted for their tough run defense, but the Huskers appear to be improving after a rough start, having held a solid Wisconsin running attack to just 56 yards a week ago.

Urban Meyer has warned that Pelini’s defense does a good job limiting an offense’s base plays, and he knows he’ll have to show the Huskers a few things they haven’t seen, so expect a little more creativity on offense from the Buckeyes. I suspect the OSU staff also thinks they can make some big plays against the Nebraska cornerbacks in the passing game on the outside and deep. We haven’t seen a lot of that so far, but it seems Meyer is gradually gaining confidence in Devin Smith, Corey (Don’t call me “Philly”) Brown, and Evan Spencer at the receiver spots.

Nebraska would seem to have an edge in explosiveness on offense, and perhaps also in the special teams area overall. The OSU defense played by far their best game against MSU, in terms of toughness, aggressiveness, and physical play, and I think the Buckeyes will have an overall edge on the defensive side of the ball.

I’m thinking this one won’t be as high-scoring as the pundits think it will be, and it would not surprise me a bit if the Huskers manage to pull the upset and hang the first OSU loss on Urban Meyer. But...I’ll still make my official prediction a Buckeye victory and a perfect first half of the season. Best guess...Ohio State 27 - Nebraska 24


Ohio State Roster

Nebraska Roster

OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)


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Dan’s OSU LInks and Resources


(photo credits - Jim Davidson -

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