Countdown Until THE GAME 2018

Friday, November 4, 2016

Buckeyes Look To Show Huskers 'Stripes' Of A Winning Program

Before my prediction on the upcoming game between Nebraska and Ohio State, I want to take a moment to express my disagreement with the recent B1G decision to play football games, beginning with the 2017 season.  High school football is such a staple of life, especially within the state of Ohio, and this decision by Jim Delany and the B1G seems to be spitting in the eyes of high school football coaches and players.

I was able to have productive discussions via Twitter with various college football media members, and below is an example of a conversation that summarized my feelings...I will merely say that as decisions go by Jim Delany, this one makes the ill-fated "Legends and Leaders" divisions look like a genius move.  Major props to programs such as Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin for coming out much more forcefully than Ohio State has with this announcement.

On to Nebraska.  For the first time since 2012, the Cornhuskers will arrive in Ohio Stadium.  Unlike Nebraska's last appearance, Mike Riley will be on the sidelines guiding the Cornhuskers, as Bo Pelini was Nebraska's head coach in the last two battles between Ohio State and Nebraska in 2011 and 2012.

Ohio State was able to get back on the winning track with its 24-21 victory over Northwestern last weekend, but the Buckeyes have been sputtering offensively for the past month.  Ohio State has been able to run the ball, but any semblance of a downfield passing game have not been seen by Buckeye fans.

Ohio State will be unveiling special uniforms for the Nebraska game.  Advertised as honoring the 1916 Ohio State team that featured Buckeye legend Chic Harley, the Buckeyes will look to feed off the night game atmosphere, while also hoping to impress the large contingent of recruits who will be in attendance.

Below are three specific areas I will be concentrating on when this game kicks off at 8pm on ABC ~
  1.  The Nebraska passing game vs the Ohio State secondary:  Critics will point out the inconsistency of Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong, but Armstrong's strong arm and mobility will be a challenge for the Buckeye defense.  Nebraska wide receivers Stanley Morgan, De'Mornay Pierson-El, and Jordan Westerkamp all average better than 14 yards a catch.  Keep a close eye on whichever Buckeye defender is assigned with Westerkamp.  Ohio State struggled last week against Northwestern's Austin Carr; Westerkamp is a comparable player, so it will bear watching if and how Ohio State decides to defend Westerkamp.
  2. The predictability of Ohio State's offense:  Recognizing that I have been making this statement over and over, but will Urban Meyer begin throwing downfield?  Will the Buckeyes quit running J.T. Barrett on third and short yardage plays with the quarterback draw?  Fans actually booed the Ohio State offense late last week against Northwestern - will they boo again if the offense is too easy to defend?
  3. The mystery of Curtis Samuel:  As a hybrid player, Samuel can run or catch the ball within the Ohio State offense.  Fans are wondering why Ohio State seems to struggle involving Samuel sooner within the offensive game plan than the coaching staff has these past few games.  Referring back to point 2, defenses are keying upon Samuel whenever Ohio State attempts a speed option, as Indiana, Wisconsin, and Northwestern were all able to eliminate that play from the Ohio State game plans in recent weeks.
Prediction:  Night games within Ohio Stadium are always a great time for the fans and the players.  The weather forecast for Columbus looks like a beautiful November night, and the Buckeyes will look forward to performing well for a national television audience.  Nebraska will come into Ohio Stadium with tremendous confidence, having battled Wisconsin last week in a close game.  While Ohio State has struggled offensively these past few weeks, the Buckeyes will have too much depth for the Cornhuskers in a raucous Ohio Stadium.  I see it Ohio State 35, Nebraska 20.

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