Nebraska vs. Ohio State: Buckeyes Defense Must Step Up to Defeat Cornhuskers

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2012

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 29:  Le'Veon Bell #24 of the Michigan State Spartans tries to get around the tackle of Ryan Shazier #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during a first quarter run at Spartan Stadium on September 29, 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Ohio State survived its first big test of the season last week against Michigan State. However, the Buckeyes don't have time to celebrate the win, with Nebraska set to visit Ohio Stadium on Saturday.

This time, the onus will be on the defense to lead the way.

The victory over Michigan State allowed the Buckeyes to move up to No. 12 in the AP poll, nine spots ahead of the Cornhuskers, who are the last currently-ranked team on Ohio State's schedule. That could change, of course.

Nebraska enters the game with the nation's fifth-ranked rushing attack at just over 300 yards per game. That means it will be another busy afternoon for the dynamic linebacker duo of Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino.

The tandem has been terrific through the first five games, racking up a total of 84 tackles and three sacks to lead the Ohio State defense. However, with the Cornhuskers offense averaging nearly 50 rushing attempts per contest, Shazier and Sabino are going to need some help.

It's going to take a complete defensive effort in order to slow down Nebraska's powerful ground game, which is led by sophomore Ameer Abdullah. He leads the team with 486 yards and five touchdowns while averaging more than six yards per carry.

He's far from the only player Ohio State has to worry about, though. Senior Rex Burkhead figures to be heavily involved as well after returning to a full workload last week. He had previously missed a couple of games due to injury.

Then there's dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has already broke off a 92-yard touchdown run this season. He's also completing 68 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and just one interception thanks to defenses packing the box to stuff the run.

That's where it gets tricky for the Buckeyes. They have to strike the right balance between not allowing Nebraska to run wild without selling out completely to stop the run, leaving them exposed to the deep ball from Martinez.

Safety Christian Bryant will play a vital role in making sure the Buckeyes are able to do exactly that. The versatile junior is the unsung hero of the Ohio State defense, but he'll receive plenty of praise if the unit can shut down Nebraska.

Braxton Miller and the rest of the offense should be able to move the ball pretty well against a Cornhuskers defense that allowed 27 points to Wisconsin last week. The game will come down to the defense making sure they get enough opportunities to win the game.

Don't be surprised if the game goes right down to the final possession, but Ohio State should be able to squeak out another victory.