On opening weekend for the 2020 Big Ten football season, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes got off to a strong start with a 52-17 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.
While the Big Ten got started much later than three of the Power Five conferences because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields still entered the season with plenty of Heisman Trophy hype, and he looked to be in midseason form in the OSU victory.
Ohio State beat Nebraska on the scoreboard and in most statistical categories, as it outgained the Huskers 491-370, had more first downs (28-17), won the time-of-possession battle 33:14-26:46 and had fewer penalties (8-3).
After going 13-1 and reaching the College Football Playoff last season, the Buckeyes are off to a 1-0 start, while Nebraska is 0-1 after a disappointing 5-7 campaign last year.
Justin Fields, QB, OSU: 20-of-21 for 276 YDS, 2 TD, 0 INT; 15 CAR for 54 YDS, 1 TD
Master Teague III, RB, OSU: 12 CAR for 41 YDS, 2 TD
Garrett Wilson, WR, OSU: 7 REC for 129 YDS, 1 TD
Chris Olave, WR, OSU: 6 REC for 104 YDS
Adrian Martinez, QB, NEB: 12-of-15 for 105 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT; 13 CAR for 85 YDS, 1 TD
Luke McCaffrey, QB, NEB: 4-of-5 for 55 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT; 9 CAR for 80 YDS; 1 REC for 5 YDS
Fields Displays Heisman Form in OSU Opener
All eyes were on Fields on Saturday after he accounted for 51 touchdowns last season as a sophomore, and he didn't disappoint against Nebraska.
While it would have been easy for Fields and the Ohio State offense to be rusty considering how long it has been since they last played a game, they essentially fired on all cylinders from start to finish.
After going down 7-0, the Buckeyes answered on their first drive of the game, as Fields marched them 75 yards in 11 plays and running back Master Teague III capped it with a touchdown run.
Ohio State took the lead on the next drive, and it culminated in Fields' first touchdown pass of the season, as he found Garrett Wilson with a deep laser for a 42-yard score:
After Fields' perfect pass, Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network suggested the Ohio State signal-caller may not be far behind Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in terms of desirability in the 2021 NFL draft:
Fields was essentially unstoppable in the first half, as he completing each of his first 11 pass attempts and largely focused on working the ball to Wilson and Chris Olave, per Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors:
Another touchdown run by Teague late in the second quarter gave Ohio State a 10-point lead at halftime, and Fields went for the double dip on the first possession of the second half.
Fields wasted little time in orchestrating an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended when he rushed for a touchdown from 17 yards out:
After a defensive touchdown extended the Ohio State lead even further, Fields connected with freshman Jaxon Smith-Njigba for his second touchdown pass of the game:
Like Crabbs, Ian Wharton of Complex Sports gushed over Fields' ability and his standing within the 2021 NFL draft class:
Ian Wharton @NFLFilmStudy
Justin Fields is a ridiculous talent. Great accuracy, strong arm, protects the ball extremely well while still making big plays. I want to see him continuing quickening his mental processing but everything is good. Slam-dunk #2 QB this class I'll start his thread later this week
Fields was pulled from the game in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes owning an insurmountable lead, but he had already made a statement long before exiting.
With Fields playing at an elite level, the Buckeyes are the clear favorites in the Big Ten and a threat to win a national championship, plus Fields is very much in the Heisman race as well.
Martinez, McCaffrey, Nebraska Running Game Promising in Loss
Nebraska was unable to keep up with Ohio State's high-octane offense Saturday, but quarterback Adrian Martinez and the Huskers' running game performed at a level that could make head coach Scott Frost's team a threat to other Big Ten squads.
The first drive of the game was surgical in nature for Nebraska and the perfect blueprint for what it needs to do consistently in order to finish with a .500 or better record for the first time since 2016.
Backup quarterback Luke McCaffrey, who is the brother of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, had the key play on that drive with a 47-yard run from the running back position:
Martinez then finished the drive off with a 10-yard touchdown run to give the Cornhuskers a 7-0 lead in less than two minutes:
After Ohio State bounced back to take a 14-7 lead, Martinez and McCaffrey spearheaded another touchdown drive to tie it on the strength of a three-yard touchdown run by running back Dedrick Mills.
On the heels of that drive, Brian Christopherson of 247Sports praised Martinez, McCaffrey and the Nebraska offensive line:
Ben Brady of KSNB liked what he saw out of Martinez as well:
Martinez's passing numbers were nothing to write home about Saturday, but he was efficient and didn't make many mistakes, which was a step forward after he posted a 10-to-9 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio last season.
His running ability is what sets Martinez apart from most other quarterbacks, and if he can continue to maintain that while also protecting the football as a passer, it will go a long way toward success for the Huskers.
Also, Frost's use of McCaffrey as both a quarterback and a running back could be a sign of things to come for the rest of the season, and it won't be surprising to see him on the field even more as the season goes on considering how dynamic he proved to be against Ohio State.
Ohio State will face arguably its biggest challenge of the season next week when it visits the No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions.
Meanwhile, Nebraska will look to score its first victory in what promises to be a tough home matchup with the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers.