With all of the hype going to the SEC in Week 6, believe it or not, there happens to be one Big Ten game that the college football world should keep an eye on. Of course, it is when the Nebraska Cornhuskers take a trip to Columbus, as they take on the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes.
The victory would do so much for Nebraska as a football program, but in order to get the job done, it is going to come down to stopping quarterback Braxton Miller.
Good luck with that.
The sophomore quarterback has learned how to master the spread offense very quickly under head coach Urban Meyer. In just his first full season as a starter, he is completing 62 percent of his passes, has thrown for over 900 yards and has eight touchdowns through the first five games. He has played the role of this entire offense and nobody has found a way to stop him yet.
Miller was able to complete nearly 70 percent of his passes last week against Michigan State and rush for 136 yards in the Buckeyes 17-16 victory. A defense that is more athletic and talented than Nebraska's could not find a way to bottle up the sophomore.
Just ask Spartans linebacker Chris Norman how difficult it is to defend him.
"It was a very hard offense to defend," said linebacker Norman, according to Josh Slagter of mlive.com. "The guy can make plays. It was really frustrating at times. He's very elusive."
While Miller has improved his passing ability with a whole offseason to prepare, it is the threat of running that makes him so scary and tough to defend.
Do you try to contain him with the standard guys up front and hope he doesn't make it to the outside? Do you stack the box and hope he doesn't find somebody open in man-coverage?
Well, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Miller was unstoppable when the Spartans sent four or fewer players to attack Miller. He averaged 8.7 yards per pass attempt against standard pressure and although he didn't do well against the blitz, Michigan State only sent five or more defenders on three of his passing plays in the second half. Keep in mind, Michigan State has two of the better defensive linemen in Marcus Rush and William Gholston.
Miller is the second leading rusher in the Big Ten this season with 577 yards on the ground and his seven touchdowns is tied for the most in the conference. He is averaging over six yards a carry and has seven runs of over 20 yards. Let's all not forget that Miller did rush for 91 yards against the Nebraska defense last season on only 10 rushes.
The Nebraska defense is ranked 10th in the conference, allowing 152 yards on the ground a contest. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who isn't as experienced or talented as Miller, was able to put together 53 rushing yards, including a 20-yard run in the Bruins victory. With the improved passing ability of Miller and his terrific speed, there is no telling what he will be able to do against a defense that has been sketchy.
Nebraska safety P.J. Smith knows what his team is in for this weekend, according to Brian Bennett of ESPN.
"He's the best quarterback we're going to play all year," Smith said. "When we get pressure and he tries to escape, we've got to stay with our guys until he finally steps past the line of scrimmage. Because when he tries to scramble to the sideline, the next thing you know, he's throwing it to the end zone."
The Cornhuskers defense does lead the Big Ten with 19 sacks and has generated 16 quarterback hurries in five games. However, playing a dual-threat quarterback as fast as Miller isn't your typical matchup that you see in the Big Ten.
It will take a group effort from the defensive line to not lose containment, the linebackers to fill the correct gaps and the secondary to not miss tackles and give up the big play. These are things this unit hasn't done consistently, as there have been 20 plays of over 20 yards and two plays of over 50 yards in the first few games.
When Miller has time to throw the ball, he can pick you apart as he showed last week. When you blitz him, he steps up and produces big run after big run. Nebraska has struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks in the past and now the defense will face arguably the best in the country.
The only question that remains now is, will Ohio State be able to stop
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
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