Typically a matchup of two of the top-five winningest programs in college football history would garner much more attention than the current interest in Saturday night’s showdown between Ohio State and Nebraska.
The ninth-ranked Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) are holding up their end of the bargain coming off another pounding of a Big Ten opponent. The 62-14 win over Maryland is the third consecutive game the Buckeyes have scored over 50 as they have outscored their last three opponents 172-35.
J.T. Barrett was efficient in limited time completing 20-31 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Add 59 yards and a touchdown on eight rushes and it was a typical “Barrett-like” box score for the Buckeye signal caller.
Barrett has looked better over the past couple of weeks, giving his receivers a chance to make plays and being more accurate on some of the tougher throws.
“We’re not even scratching the surface of his ability level,” head coach Urban Meyer said of Victor earlier this week. “We haven’t even seen near the ceiling of what he has, ability-wise. A great young man that’s just working at learning how to work all the time and go all the time.”
Meyer even drew comparisons of Victor to Ohio State greats Cris Carter and Michael Thomas when talking about his jump ball ability and ball skills.
“Cris Carter, years and years and years ago, when we were here together,” Meyer said. “You’ve got [Michael] Thomas was good, really good at going up and getting the ball, but [Victor’s] sheer size and wingspan… and he’s got great ball skills.”
The Cornhuskers (3-3, 2-1 Big Ten) are coming off a 38-17 loss to then-No. 9 ranked Wisconsin. This week marks the first time Nebraska had to play back-to-back top ten opponents since losing to Missouri and Texas Tech back in 2008.
“It’s good to play at home for us, but you know, this is a team with a veteran quarterback that is hitting on all cylinders, very talented, well-coached and so, it is a particular challenge and it’ll be good for our team,” Riley said.
The Cornhuskers are looking for a spark offensively as they have failed to score over thirty points in all but one game this year, a 42-35 loss to Oregon. The Buckeyes are outgaining the Huskers by almost 200 yards a game and outscoring them by almost 20.
The biggest reason for the offensive struggles of Nebraska is poor quarterback play. Junior quarterback Tanner Lee leads the Big Ten in interceptions with 10 and is only completing 54% of his passes. Last week marked the second week in a row Lee led the Huskers into the red-zone only to throw a pick-six.
The last time Ohio State traveled to Lincoln they blew a 21-point lead in a 34-27 upset by the Cornhuskers. But that was 2011. Last year the Buckeyes punished Nebraska 62-3 and that game is the one in Lee’s mind.
“It was tough to watch,” Lee said of last year’s loss. “I mean, obviously they will have the same talented team as they do, as they seem to have every year. They will be quick, athletic, and strong up front. So that will be a good challenge gain for us this week.”
While Nebraska tries to fight their way to a bowl game Ohio State has a conference championship in their sights and a possible playoff-birth. Coach Riley knows this is an uphill battle for the Cornhuskers.
“They’re playing at a high-level since that one loss and outscoring opponents,” Riley said of the Buckeyes. “They’re versatile and productive offensively in almost every category, near the top [nationally] in everything. Same thing defensively, so it’s a major, major challenge for us.”
What: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: Saturday October 14, 2017 at 7:30 PM ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Watch: Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
Spread: OSU -24
Money Line: OSU -2500, Neb +1400