Ohio State has one of the most efficient dual threat quarterbacks in college football leading them to an undefeated start, but if the Buckeyes want to get past the Cornhuskers Saturday, they will need help from a few unexpected sources.
The 12th-ranked Buckeyes are currently 5-0 after barely edging out Michigan State last weekend. A 63-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to wide receiver Devin Smith gave Ohio State a 17-13 lead late in the third quarter. The Spartans came roaring back with a field goal to bring the game within one point with over seven minutes left to play. Ohio State’s defense thwarted a last push by Michigan State and took the victory at home.
The victory came at a price, though, as starting running back Jordan Hall was knocked out of the game with a partial PCL tear and will be inactive this weekend.
This week, Ohio State faces a run-first Nebraska team who can also throw the ball extremely well.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez ranks 11th in the nation and first in the Big 10 with a 169.6 passer rating and also has 298 yards rushing.
The Cornhuskers have the fourth best rushing attack in the country, and as running back Rex Burkhead starts becoming more involved since from injury, they will only get better.
Nebraska averages 6.2 yards per carry and already has crossed the end zone 15 times on the ground this season.
The good news for the Buckeyes is that Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense have fumbled the football 14 times this season, with nine of them resulting in turnovers. If the OSU defense is able to capitalize on these mistakes the game will be in Ohio State’s hands.
Who will win this game?
The keys to this game for the Buckeyes will be their ability to slow down the Cornhuskers’ rushing game, force turnovers on defense and run the ball well on offense.
These are the under-the-radar players that will take Ohio State past Nebraska this weekend:
Bruising back Carlos Hyde will get the start this week in place of injured running back Jordan Hall.
Hyde was huge for the Buckeyes in their opening weekend, rushing for 82 yards and two touchdowns, but injuries and a crowded backfield have taken its toll on his playing time since.
Against Nebraska last October, Hyde ran for 104 yards on just 13 touches and two touchdowns. Hyde also broke out for a 63-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career.
In Week 6, Hyde faces a Nebraska rush defense that leads the Big 10 in tackles for loss. However, in three out of their five games, the Cornhuskers have given up over 140 rushing yards.
While talking about Hyde’s knee injury concerns in the Ohio State press conference, head coach Urban Meyer said, “Carlos Hyde is still not 100 percent, but he’ll be close to 100 percent this week. He’s a very good player.”
The 6'1" 235 pound junior out of Naples, Fla. will have room to run this week. Expect him to make the most of his carries.
We all know that linebackers Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino can play, but this week the defensive line will need to carry the load for Ohio State. Defensive tackle John Simon, nose tackle Garrett Goebel and the rest of the line will have to step up this week if OSU hopes to wrangle the powerful Nebraska rushing game.
Simon has been playing through injuries over the past month but now looks healthier than he has been all season.
After 17 tackles for a loss in 2011, Simon appears to be back in top caliber shape, and it seems he is on the verge of breaking out.
“Most people wouldn’t play with the kind of shoulder injury he had. He just keeps fighting through it. He will never come off the field,” Meyer said on a radio show on Thursday.
Simon will be counted upon to disrupt the Nebraska rushing game, and if he plays at his best, Ohio State’s chances of winning this game improve exponentially.
Games on the road are hard enough to win as it is, but there is nothing like playing in the Horseshoe at Ohio State as the opposing team. Playing in front of 100,000 screaming Buckeyes fans makes Ohio Stadium one of the toughest places to play in the nation.
Taylor Martinez has been significantly worse on the road.
“In his last 10 starts in road games, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is averaging 136 yards passing and 41 yards rushing with eight touchdowns and 11 turnovers,” according to News Journal’s Jim Naveau.
It will be the job of defensive end Nathan Williams and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to fluster Martinez and make him uncomfortable. These two linemen will be key to shutting down the Nebraska air game.
If they can cause a few turnovers and control the passing attack, the Buckeyes will be able to focus on the run game, thus helping Ohio State win.