Under the Lights in Lincoln: Ohio State – Nebraska Preview

Fresh off a homecoming victory over Maryland, the No. 9 Ohio State University Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 B1G) take to the road for a prime time matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3, 2-1).

Dating back to 1955, Ohio State leads the all-time series with Nebraska 4-1. The Cornhuskers’ lone win came in their first Big Ten season (2011), a 34-27 triumph in Lincoln during OSU’s lost campaign. The Buckeyes hold a two game win streak with victories in 2012 and 2016. Last year the Scarlet and Gray left Nebraska black and blue in a 62-3 romp.

The 2017 Cornhuskers have largely disappointed their always zealous fans. The Big N opened with a win over Arkansas State followed by a respectable loss at Oregon and a head-scratching loss versus Northern Illinois at home. The Huskies were 7-41-1 against Big Ten opponents before the game. The Huskers seemed to right the ship with victories over Rutgers and Illinois. Last week they fell to Wisconsin in Lincoln, 38-17. For the second straight week Nebraska will play the AP Poll’s No. 9 team at home and for the second straight week they are underdogs.

Redshirt junior Tanner Lee calls the signals for Nebraska. The young man has completed 109-of-202 passes for 1,406 yards, eleven touchdowns, and ten interceptions (most in conference). His high interception rate has come back to immediately haunt the Cornhuskers as several have been returned for touchdowns. Three different Big Red running backs have carried the ball over fifty times. Sophomore Tre Bryant checks in with 51 attempts, 299 yards, and two touchdowns. Redshirt junior Mikale Wilbon registers 56 carries, 251 yards, and three touchdowns. Junior Devine Ozigbo handles the most runs with 67 attempts, 327 yards, and one touchdown. Junior Stanley Morgan Jr. features as the primary wideout – 30 receptions, 510 yards, five touchdowns.

Since losing to Oklahoma Ohio State has taken out their frustrations on lesser opponents. During their four game win streak the Buckeyes are outscoring their foes 210-42. The offense is beginning to look as explosive as advertised, and the defense finally shows promise of stopping the other team cold. Nebraska offers the sternest test since that Sooners loss. Even in a mediocre year, Lincoln can be a fearsome place to play, and there is nothing those corn lovers want more than to storm the field after an upset victory.

Ohio State hangs their offensive hat on strong offensive line play. The Bucks’ running backs’ per carry averages are video game numbers: JK Dobbins – 7.6 yards/carry, JT Barrett – 5.2, Antonio Williams – 5.9, Mike Weber – 4.8. Those gaudy numbers are worth monitoring now that right guard Branden Bowen is out for the year. Head Coach Urban Meyer says he is considering Malcolm Pridgeon, Matt Burrell, or Demetrius Knox to take over on the right side of the line. Whoever wins the job will have big shoes to fill, and a large responsibility to assume.

If you enjoy seeing Nebraska on Ohio State’ schedule I’ve got great news. The 2017 matchup marks the second of six consecutive seasons in which OSU and NU will meet on the gridiron. Right now the Big Ten favors an unbalanced inter-division scheduled meaning certain matchups (that just so happen to be good for TV) keep happening while less enticing opponents are skipped over. Here is a look at the Bucks’ current West Division foes through 2021.

Northwestern and Wisconsin are barely there while Nebraska is heavily featured. Personally, I think this setup does a disservice to the students. In four years on campus, ideally, one would see every Big Ten opponent at home or at least be given the chance to travel to another stadium and see the Bucks play on the road. An ideal schedule would look something like this:

In my rotating schedule the odds of seeing a West school both home and away greatly increase depending on which four years you are there. The limited nature of conference schedule means that you would only see two schools once in your college career, but the balance offers a more thorough look at the Big Ten. It’s a unique culture, and I would encourage anyone and everyone to visit another Big Ten school for a game if you haven’t already.

Despite Nebraska’s struggles, it would be foolish to take the Cornhuskers lightly. Mike Riley’s team can stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the conference including Ohio State. The Buckeyes have more talent and should be able to secure the victory, but it might not be as easy as last season. They can leave it all on the field knowing next week brings a bye week. After that? Penn State comes calling.