COLUMBUS, Ohio — The tests just keep on coming for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have already faced three teams currently ranked in the top 15 of the College Football Playoff rankings — all on the road. Now they get one at home. Ohio State, sixth in the first CFP rankings of the season, is set to host Nebraska, which sits at No. 10. The Cornhuskers (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) have an identical record as the Buckeyes, but not the same résumé, with some rather unimpressive victories on their schedule.
But Nebraska very nearly beat Wisconsin on the road last weekend, falling 23-17 in overtime. Given that the Badgers also took Ohio State to OT at Camp Randall Stadium, it’s safe to say the Huskers have the Buckeyes’ attention.
“A top-10 team,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “They play like it. They look like it. And that’s the only concern.”
Under second-year head coach Mike Riley, the Huskers are in the midst of a much better season than their 6-7 campaign of last year. So how does Nebraska ultimately compare to Ohio State? Here’s our look at what to expect when the teams square off at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
When Ohio State has the ball
Ohio State still has impressive offensive stats, but that’s in part because of the impressive play of the defense. The Buckeyes have a talented enough offense to run up big numbers, but execution remains an issue. They’ll get a big test from Nebraska, which ranks 15th nationally in scoring defense. Furthermore, safety Nate Gerry is an absolute force and could wreak havoc on the Buckeyes passing game.
When Nebraska has the ball
The OSU defense has surrendered some untimely scores in its last two games. Overall, however, the Buckeyes are still a model unit on that side of the ball. The turnovers have dropped off a bit, but they’ve still forced at least one in seven of their eight games. Against Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong, who has 11 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, Ohio State’s secondary might find some success. Armstrong has a history of gambling, and this defense is opportunistic enough to make him pay.
Edge: Ohio State
For the sixth straight week, the Buckeyes are facing a horrendous punting team. (But really, how does this keep happening?) The Huskers are 127th nationally — one spot above dead last — in net punting, while the Buckeyes are fourth. Nebraska has the better kicker — or at least the one with better range. Drew Brown is 8 for 10 with a long of 51 this season. On the other hand, OSU’s Tyler Durbin is 11 for 12 with a long of 40.
Riley is a fine coach who’s in the midst of an impressive turnaround, but he’s not Meyer.
Edge: Ohio State
The question remains: Which Ohio State team will show up in Ohio Stadium on Saturday? If the Buckeyes are at their best, it could be a rout. If not, it will be a fight to the end.
Ben Axelrod’s prediction: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 10
Jeremy Birmingham’s prediction: Ohio State 38, Nebraska 28
Ryan Ginn’s prediction: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 20
Share your own score predictions in the comments below!