Ohio State needed a bye week more than pretty much any team in the nation.
Following a 49-20 loss to Purdue, which came after disappointing outings against Minnesota and Indiana, the Buckeyes were left with various areas to improve before they had to face another opponent.
Now, head coach Urban Meyer wants to move past the defeat and into his team’s next matchup.
“We’re in the grind,” Meyer said. “This is all about getting ready for Nebraska, and moving forward.”
Senior offensive tackle Isaiah Prince is not exactly forgetting about the loss to the Boilermakers: he is using his anger and taking it into Saturday.
“If I lose, it’s a bad day for me. Whether it’s a video game, a rep, I don’t like losing. So yeah, I’m mad,” Prince said. “I just want to see the Buckeyes play angry and pissed off, and let everybody know we’re still here.”
Nebraska comes in with a two-game winning streak against Minnesota and Bethune-Cookman after losing its first six games to start the season.
Head coach Scott Frost is in his first season with the Cornhuskers after leading UCF to an undefeated record, including a victory over then-No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Frost has brought his offensive coaching ability to Nebraska, with the Cornhuskers ranking in the top 50 in the NCAA in rushing, passing and total offense.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez has gained momentum as the season progressed, breaking 400 total yards in three of his past five contests. On the season, Martinez is up to 1,656 passing and 408 rushing yards, completing 66.3 percent of his throws for 15 total touchdowns and six interceptions.
Meyer said Martinez is an “elite guy” that offers a dual-threat ability, and who has “done a great job” over his past two games.
Martinez’s main weapon is redshirt sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman, who has 53 catches for 686 yards and seven touchdowns.
Spielman has been compared to Purdue freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore, who caught 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns against the Buckeyes two weeks ago. Meyer said Spielman is “very close” to Moore, and a “very talented guy.”
Junior safety Jordan Fuller covered Spielman often in Ohio State’s matchup with Nebraska last season in the nickel, and he said he remembers the talent the then-redshirt freshman could bring.
“Really talented guy, quick and fast, so we definitely gotta keep our eyes on him,” Fuller said. “He enjoys space, though, so don’t give it to him.”
Defensively, Nebraska has struggled in all fronts, but mostly in the passing game. The Cornhuskers allow the 20th-most passing yards with 272.0 per game. This has given teams the opportunity to light up Nebraska’s defense for 33.4 points a game, 29th-worst in the nation.
The Cornhuskers had allowed 24 points or more in every game this year prior to their 45-9 win over Bethune-Cookman.
Nebraska has some playmakers to work with on the offensive end, and Spielman could find some space in the middle of the field if Ohio State has yet to make any adjustments since the Purdue loss.
Martinez could find success in the option game, much like Penn State redshirt senior quarterback Trace McSorley did in his record-breaking performance against the Buckeyes a month ago.
But Nebraska ran into Ohio State at the wrong time.
After losing to Iowa by 31 last season, the Buckeyes came out a week later and annihilated a then-No. 12 Michigan State team 48-3, scoring 35 unanswered points less than 25 minutes into the game.
If Ohio State squeaked out a close victory over the Boilermakers before the bye, maybe Nebraska had a chance. But as it stands, the Cornhuskers are running into a buzzsaw, coming up against a Buckeyes team that is both better on paper and incredibly angry.
Even if all of that wasn’t enough, the lackluster pass defense will not do Nebraska any favors against redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and only time will tell if sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior running back Mike Weber will finally break loose on a subpar Cornhusker rush defense.
If Ohio State comes out as mad as it did against the Spartans last year, this will get ugly, fast. If not, the Buckeyes are still the much better team, and should be able to handle any scares the Nebraska offense could give.
Wyatt Crosher: 52-10 Ohio State
Colin Gay: 49-14 Ohio State
Edward Sutelan: 42-21 Ohio State
Rachel Bules: 45-10 Ohio State