Ohio State Football: Keys to Victory for Buckeyes vs. Nebraska
While the Big Ten as a whole has left a lot to be desired this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes keep taking care of business. It may not be as impressive as fans or analysts would like, but under first-year head coach Urban Meyer, it is hardly some huge step back from where they were last year.
This week brings with it probably the most difficult test left on the Buckeyes' schedule, as they will host No. 21 Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers used a ferocious comeback late against Wisconsin to steal a victory and avoid falling one game behind in the Legends division.
The Buckeyes took a different route, holding off Michigan State in the fourth quarter with strong defense and rode a gritty effort from a battered Braxton Miller to victory.
As these two conference powers get set to lock horns on Saturday, here are the things we will be looking for from the Buckeyes in order to keep their perfect run to start the season alive.
Contain Taylor Martinez In the Pocket
Of all the things I thought I would write about this game before the season, the idea of Taylor Martinez's arm as a real threat would not have been close to the top.
Yet, after five games in which he has thrown for 1,059 yards, 11 touchdowns, just one interception and completed 67.8 percent of his passes, Martinez has dramatically improved what he can do as a quarterback.
Martinez is always going to have the athleticism to beat you with his legs, but if he is able to have his way with a defense through the air, Nebraska suddenly looks a lot more dangerous.
Running is still the strength of the Nebraska team—they rank fifth in the country with nearly 306 yards per game on the ground—but they aren't as effective if Martinez can't throw.
The Buckeyes have not really been tested through the air this season. They gave up 303 yards to Miami (OH) quarterback Zac Dysert, but that was in a 56-10 game. They did do a nice job against Andrew Maxwell last week, though he has proven to be very inconsistent already this season.
Establish Pass Early
Which QB needs to have a bigger game for his team to win?
Nebraska hurt itself a lot last week with turnovers and penalties, but Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was able to make some big plays. He only had 12 completions and still threw for 214 yards.
Braxton Miller is still coming into his own as a passer, though he has been very efficient so far this season. Given the holes that have been exploited in the Nebraska secondary, there is no reason for the Buckeyes not to take some chances down the field early.
If they are able to do that and have success, it will open up everything else for them. The running game should find plenty of holes as the game wears on, and defensively, they will be forcing Martinez to beat them with his arm.
Don't Give Nebraska An Opening
One hallmark of the Buckeyes in 2012 has been their inability to put teams away late. They are winning these games, but they are much closer than they probably should be.
Nebraska is easily the best and most complete offensive team the Buckeyes will play up to this point, so if they aren't able to manage the clock and sustain drives late in a close game, things will get a lot more interesting for the defense.
So far, the Buckeyes have been able to work around their limitations. Eventually that is going to catch up to them. The Cornhuskers are supposed to be built on power and defense, but they can strike at a moment's notice.
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