LINCOLN, Neb. — Over the past three games, Ohio State has looked nothing like a team picked to win it all by many when the season began.
So, after a loss, an overtime escape and their three lowest-scoring games of the season, what’s wrong with the Buckeyes? And can Nebraska take advantage of this slump?
Here’s what he had to say about this week’s matchup:
Q: Ohio State hasn’t looked great the past three weeks. Some are saying they’re showing they’re “beatable.” Is this the wear and tear of the season or is Ohio State not as good as some thought?
Ginn: I think the Buckeyes are playing tight.
Ohio State’s 14-0 lead against Oklahoma set the tone for that game, which turned into a free-flowing offensive rout. But in tighter games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Northwestern, the Buckeyes have struggled. The creativity and explosive plays haven’t been there, nor has the aggressiveness. Ohio State punted twice from opposing territory against Northwestern, which is almost unfathomable for an Urban Meyer-coached team.
Q: Why has Ohio State been so bad in the first quarter?
Ginn: It’s a number of things. For starters, the Buckeyes have turned it over three times on their eight opening drives. That’s just the symptom of a bigger problem, though. If Ohio State is to be believed, teams are throwing previously unused looks at them that take time for the players and coaches to adjust to.
There also may have been something wrong with the play sequencing. The team scripts its opening dozen or so plays and revisited it after the Penn State loss. To that point, Ohio State had managed 3 points over the opening drive of its first seven games. Against Northwestern, the Buckeyes drove 94 yards in 9 plays for a touchdown. It was one of the team’s best drives of the season, and they left the first quarter with a 10-0 led. Whether that was a fix or a one-time thing remains to be seen, however.
Q: What’s Ohio State’s biggest advantage over Nebraska?
Ginn: I’d say it’s the roster as a whole. I think that’s the basis for Vegas listing the Buckeyes as 17-point favorites. Ohio State has signed top-10 classes every year under Meyer, and that depth wins a lot of games. The Northwestern game, for example, came down to the fact that Noah Brown and K.J. Hill (4-star receivers) made plays when they had to. More importantly, the offense has guys who can score on any play and the defense has players who can create a turnover on any play. Over the course of 60 minutes, someone usually makes something happen.
Q: What do you think the Buckeyes will struggle with most against Nebraska?
Ginn: To go back to my answer to the first question, I’ll say playing freely. Just look at the way both teams have played recently. Nebraska is a good team that was right there with Wisconsin on the road. There’s a good chance this game remains a close one into the second half. If that’s the case, Ohio State’s current style of play in those situations should be troubling to Buckeye fans. If Ohio State plays tight and conservatively, Nebraska can win this game.
Q: Is this game a big deal in Columbus, i.e., is this a make-or-break game for Ohio State, or is that still against Michigan?
Ginn: Interesting question here. Comparing it to Michigan will always be a losing battle. It could be Alabama coming in and people would still care more about Michigan. It’s still a big deal, though, because this is a high-leverage situation. This is Ohio State’s first home night game and the recruiting visitor list is monstrous. More importantly, a loss ends Ohio State’s championship hopes. This has to be a win for the Michigan game to have more than bragging rights at stake, which makes this game a critical one. I’m not sure it has a top-10 vibe to it right now, but I bet that changes when the players and fans get in the stadium.
Q: What is Ohio State’s perception of Nebraska? Do fans think the Huskers are an actual challenge?
Ginn: If the team didn’t respect Nebraska before, I think the Wisconsin game changed that. What was essentially the same result in the same place had to be an attention grabber. The views of Ohio State fans on any given topic are wildly unpredictable, so I went ahead and asked them myself.
POLL: Ohio State fans, do you think Nebraska is good?
— Ryan Ginn (@rmginn) November 2, 2016
Ginn: On paper, Ohio State should be able to overpower Nebraska. Luckily for the Huskers, they’re about to face a team that’s underperforming as of late. I do think Ohio State will win, but I also think there will be trouble. Both teams have huge time of possession margins, and a game with fewer possessions gives the underdog a better chance. I’ll say Ohio State 31, Nebraska 20.