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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Ohio State Buckeyes: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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When: Sat. Nov. 5, 2016; 8:00 pm ET
Where: Columbus, OH; Ohio Stadium (104,944)
TV: ABC
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 3-1
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 63-38 (2012)
Line: Ohio State (-17)

Welcome to the latest game of the year in the Big Ten. It’s yet another matchup of two teams in the upper crust of the College Football Playoff discussions, and somewhat of an elimination game in that regard as well. Heck, Ohio State is even breaking out some alternate uniforms for this titanic struggle:

Nebraska was thought to be a paper tiger before taking a battle-tested Wisconsin team to overtime last week in Camp Randall. It was a loss, but one that raised the eyebrows of everyone throwing stones at the program for failing to notch a respectable showing.

Though those perceptions may have been doused to some degree, there’s still a lack of respect for the ‘Huskers as they travel to Columbus — evidenced by more than two touchdown line in favor of Ohio State. Nebraska would love nothing more than to impose a super wedgie to those expectations on Saturday.

For Ohio State, it’s been a season of perplexity. The team flew out of the gate with youth and vigor, making big plays all over the field early in Norman against Oklahoma, and at home against competition early on. But then, like a thief in the night, the Buckeyes’ offensive mojo seemed to go the way of the dinosaur.

J.T. Barrett has done everything to keep the offense humming, but despite all the talent in the universe, the ability to make big plays in the passing game has resembled a root canal more than a waltz through a cupcake forest. Penn State knocked Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten, and then Northwestern provided a scare on Halloween weekend to create a run on staples at your local grocery stores in the surrounding Columbus area.

It’s two teams with really big things still on the line, and two teams desperate to wash doubts and fears from the collective psyche of all stakeholders involved.

1 Burning Question: Will it be Ohio State or Nebraska that continues its march towards championship aspirations?

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The sands in the hour-glass of the college football season are beginning to run out as the calendar flips to November. Though both teams have put themselves in position to seal the deal, only the winner of this game will emerge with those same goals and dreams without major doubts.

If Ohio State can beat Nebraska, it would appear to have a bit of a breather until the big showdown in Columbus with arch-rival Michigan. This is a huge hurdle the way Nebraska has been playing, and it must bring its A number one game to live to fight another day.

Ahhh, and Nebraska. The ‘Huskers were not expected to be here, but the emergence of a solid defense and the leadership and exploits of Tommy Armstrong have brought them to the brink of special things as well. Beat Ohio State, and most of the hard rowing is behind them. Lose and another team will suddenly have the inside track to Indy.

There couldn’t be much more on the line.

2 Key Stats

— 220.5: That’s the number of passing yards per game Ohio State is averaging. That’s okay for No. 8 ranked rushing team in the country, but to be a truly special team, that’s not going to cut it. The Buckeyes need more balance, meaning it needs to have someone emerge in the receiver room to keep defenses more honest than they’ve been in selling out on the run the last three weeks. The template has been set, and until the Buckeyes can take the top off the defense, they’ll have to bring their lunch pails to move the chains on a weekly basis.

— 225.6: Similarly, that’s the average passing yards per contest for Nebraska. Needless to say, both of these teams will need to crank it up a bit more in the passing game. We could throw out a branded but true stat that whomever wins the rushing battle will likely win the game, and that may be true. However, this can’t be a game where both teams give up on plays down the field, because those plays will open up some holes and lanes to run through and win that battle. This may be a game where both teams need to establish the pass first to open up chunk plays on the ground.

3 Key Players

–Noah Brown, Ohio State WR: Brown has made the spectacular play at times this year, but he’s also gone the way of the back of a milk carton at times as well. He doesn’t possess elite speed, but his ability to high-point the ball and come up with catches in traffic with a great set of hands can be a game changer. There hasn’t been much separation occurring with the OSU receivers lately, and maybe it’s time to let Brown fight for some shots down the field to make things easier for Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel running the ball.

–Jordan Westerkamp, WR Nebraska: Tit for tat. As long as we are talking about someone stepping up in the passing game for Ohio State, we might as well go to the other sideline as well. Ohio State gave up far too many explosive plays through the air to the Clayton Thorson to Austin Carr show last week. Westerkamp is cut out of the same cloth as Carr so the OSU secondary would be well-advised to tread lightly again. No. 1 is a great route-runner with exceptional hands who just always seems to be open and making big plays when healthy. He’ll need to be a key third-down weapon for the Cornhuskers Saturday for things to get downright corny in Columbus.

–Nick Bosa, DL Ohio State: Slowly but surely, Joey Bosa’s little brother is starting to flash in opposing offenses backfields at a more frequent rate. No. 97 has taken some time to recover from a knee injury his senior season of high school, but he’s becoming a force as they move him up and down the defensive line to try and generate pressure on the quarterback. He’s got all the tools to make life difficult on Tommy Armstrong by applying pressure. Armstrong has shown a penchant for questionable decisions when forced to get the ball out quickly, and Bosa might just be the tipping point in a game-changing moment on Saturday night.

4 Staff Predictions

Andy: Ohio State 45-17
Dave: Ohio State 31-26
Phil H.: Ohio State 27-21
Philip R-R.: Nebraska 28-24
Zach: Ohio State 31-17

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Frost starting his Huskers rebuild at QB

Frost landed a 4-star QB within 10 days of becoming head coach, can that be the beginning of Nebraska’s offensive revolution?

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Scott Frost knows a thing or two about playing quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He also knows a thing or two about what type of quarterback wins him football games as a head coach.

So, it is hard not to notice that two of his biggest moves since arriving in Lincoln, Neb. as the new Nebraska head coach have come at the quarterback position.

On Wednesday, Frost got his first quarterback commitment as the Huskers head man. It was a big get too, flipping one-time Tennessee commit and 4-star senior quarterback Adrian Martinez.

He is the No. 8 ranked dual threat quarterback in the 2018 class and the No. 142 ranked player in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Frost managed to get the commitment just days after offering, relying on his established relationship after offering at UCF. Nebraska put the offer out to Martinez on Dec. 3, got him to visit just five days later and then another five days later the verbal pledge came to the Huskers.

That’s some impressive recruiting chops for a player many schools were after once he opened up his recruiting again following Tennessee’s coaching disaster.

Martinez comes as another in a line of 4-star signal callers for the Huskers, so perhaps there’s some hesitation to believe the hype. Under Riley, the Huskers landed commits from 4-star quarterbacks

There’s also the fact that Martinez hasn’t thrown a football in a game since 2016. A shoulder injury and subsequent surgery kept him off the field after amassing 3,869 total yards and 41 total touchdowns as a junior.

But, according to a report from the Omaha World-Herald, Martinez showed some mettle in how he dealt with the injury and missing his final high school season. According to the report, Martinez took on a player-coach role and was there for every morning workout and evening practice.

In other words, rather than sulking about the injury, he took on whatever he could to help his team.

That’s a good indication of the type of leader Martinez could be on the next level. It’s also a good building block to what Frost wants to build at quarterback.

So, how did Frost win Martinez over so quickly?

One of the more interesting quotes from Martinez sheds some good light on Frost’s decision to coach UCF in the Peach Bowl despite taking the new gig in Lincoln.

“It speaks volumes that he’s going out to coach the bowl game,” Martinez said. “He’s going to finish it out with his players. That’s a big deal. That definitely impressed me. It showed me he wouldn’t give up on his players, that he wasn’t selfish. He’s demonstrated a lot of great things throughout this process in making the transition to Nebraska. It speaks to his character.”

Frost got the big-named quarterback that can give the Huskers the run-pass option that haven’t had since a different Martinez – Taylor Martinez — was in town. But, just landing a 4-star quarterback is no guarantee of future success.

Nebraska has had two straight recruiting classes with 4-star quarterbacks inPatrick O’Brien and Tristan Gebbia over the last few years. Of course it is unfair to judge after just one potential season for either of them. But, with an open battle heading in to 2017, O’Brien, who should’ve had advantage in raw talent, was beaten out by Tulane transfer Tanner Lee.

That didn’t work out so well, as Lee struggled with interceptions, and now Frost is looking for something different at quarterback all together.

Can Gebbia or O’Brien be the quarterback Frost needs early on? Lee clearly isn’t the option Frost will be looking to in 2018, so it will be incumbent upon someone in the young stable of quarterbacks to make a mark quickly this offseason.

Can this Martinez lead the Huskers to at least the level the previous one did – mainly getting them in to the Big Ten championship game at the very least?

Of course it is way too soon to assume that, but at the very least we know the Huskers aren’t going to have trouble convincing top-quality recruits to come to Lincoln now that Frost is there.

Let’s see if the magic can continue to rub off in the coming five days or so before the new national signing day period begins.

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Nebraska vs. Ohio State: Can The Buckeyes Continue Their March In Lincoln?

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When: Sat. Oct. 14; 7:30 pm ET
Where: Lincoln, NE; Memorial Stadium (90,000)
TV: Fox Sports 1
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 62-3 last year
Line: Ohio State (-24)

Is this finally a more formidable opponent that will show us exactly what direction the compass is pointed for an improved Ohio State team? You’d have to be the most cynical of observers to disregard the development that has occurred with this Buckeye team after the rather unassuming loss at the hands of Oklahoma, but just how far has the team come?

It’s been hard to tell with games against the likes of Army, UNLV, Maryland and Rutgers, but maybe — just maybe — this is a wee-bit stiffer of a test on the road against a team with a historical pedigree like the ‘Huskers.

But let’s not kid ourselves here. Though Nebraska has its place in historical college football lore, this team has been far from that. The defense has been suspect, the offensive line a work in progress, and the decision making at quarterback questionable.

Still, this is the chance to play a game in a hostile environment at night. Wisconsin was able to pass the same test in Lincoln with flying colors, and if we want to compare the two, this could be a chance to do so with still plenty of games to play.

Of course, if Nebraska can pull off the upset, all bets are off.

1 Burning Question: Can the Buckeye passing game travel?

There’s life in the passing game for Ohio State, but the resistance has been little more than wet tissue paper against teams with no where near the depth, athletic ability and pedigree of the Bucks. And, it has been at home for all but Maryland.

So here we go with J.T Barrett and company taking that much-maligned passing game on the road, and into an environment that is sure to be a step up from what he has faced over the last four weeks.

In order for Ohio State to be a contender in the Big Ten, as well as nationally, that passing game can’t just be for the home crowd, but has to be able to be a threat against much better opponents, on the road, and in tough circumstances. This isn’t the toughest it’ll face, but it does at least provide a gauge of things past and present for this year.

2 Key Stats:

4 and 10: That’s where OSU ranks in scoring offense and scoring defense in the entire country.

Its the only team in the Big Ten that can say that, and only Alabama and Washington are in that group across this great nation of ours. For all the hand-wringing and teeth gnashing going on in Columbus, the stats are beginning to show where they have under Urban Meyer. We’ll see where it all goes once the season plays out, but Nebraska by comparison is 77th and 73rd respectfully.

Nebraska will need to find some way to turn that stat on its head if it has any designs of staying close, let alone pulling off the shocker. It’s a tall order, but it is Nebraska and there’s that chance that the ‘Huskers rise up and put some pride on the line.

57: It’s the amount of tackles for loss Ohio State’s defense has for the season — tops in the country.

Yeah we’re staying with the Ohio State defense here. The bushel of tackles for loss go hand-in-hand with the deep and talented defensive line the Buckeyes come at teams in force with. It’ll be imperative for Nebraska to put together a game plan that can get the ball out of the hands of Tanner Lee faster than the rush can get there.

With the issues on the O-line in combination with a D-line that would like to eat it for lunch, this could be a disaster in waiting. Lee already has already thrown three pick-sixes on the season. Could the watch be on for yet another? By the way, guess what team is right there with Ohio State in tackles for loss? Yep, Northern Illinois, which had two pick-sixes and beat Nebraska in Memorial Stadium.

3 Key Players:

Tanner Lee, QB (Nebraska): The quarterback for Nebraska has to play lights out. There was a ton of hype surrounding the transfer from Tulane, but so far he’s not lived up to it — in fact he’s been miles away. It’s not all been on him with the issues surrounding the O-Line, but things have to turn around if Nebraska has any designs of making a bowl this year. Yes, I said making a bowl. That is no certainty with the schedule and development of this team that is still to occur.

Devine Ozigbo, RB (Nebraska): But it can’t all be on Lee. Big Red will need a running game as well. It doesn’t have to go for 200 on the ground or anything, but there has to be at least a threat of getting chunks the old fashioned way. If we haven’t stated it already, OSU’s D-line is deep, and the only way to wear it down some is to keep the pressure on to some extent with down-hill runs. If not, the athletes will pin their ears back and target Lee time after time — after time.

Parris Campbell, WR (Ohio State): You figure OSU will get yards on the ground with Barrett, Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins doing their thing, but everyone’s still looking for consistency and staying power in the passing game. That consistency comes from the emergence of a go-to guy at wide receiver, and over the past few weeks, that guy has been Campbell more often than not. He’s third in the Big Ten in yards receiving, but he needs to limit the drops and continue to step forward as a dynamic weapon Barrett can look to when the team needs a big play in third and long situations. That should be tested against Nebraska at times.

Prediction:

Ohio State 42, Nebraska 20

In another year this game would be closer. Nebraska just has not shown anything it can hang its hat on this year to expect the game to be close. And against offenses in the same stratosphere as Ohio State it has given up about 40 points per contest (Oregon and Wisconsin). You can expect the same type of output here — unless the ghosts of past forge their way into the Lincoln night.

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Wisconsin Badgers: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers will renew their “long-standing” rivalry with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. On the line will be the Freedom Trophy, which hasn’t known any home other than inside Camp Randall Stadium since its inception in 2014.

UW blew the Huskers out in the first battle for the Freedom Trophy in 2014, winning 59-24 on a snowy Saturday afternoon inside Camp Randall Stadium. However, it hasn’t been easy the last two times out.

Wisconsin won 23-21 on a last-second field goal by Rafael Gaglianone in Lincoln, Neb. in 2015. In 2016, it was an 11-yard touchdown run by Dare Ogunbowale in overtime that sealed a 23-17 win in Madison, Wis.

We’re back to the confines of Memorial Stadium, where the last time these two met at night it was the last and only time the Huskers have won in this series since joining the Big Ten. Can they repeat that magic in 2017 and upset the Big Ten West division apple cart?

Join our Publisher, Andy Coppens, as he previews, predicts and prognosticates this matchup and subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more talk of all things Big Ten.

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CYBER MONDAY DEAL: Save up to 50% on Samsung, Sony, LG TV’s

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Your favorite team about to head to a bowl game? Perhaps you are a fan of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin and a Big Ten title could be in your future?

Whatever Big Ten team you support, what better gift to give your favorite fan (or yourself) than some of the latest and greatest TV’s in the land? Amazon’s Cyber Monday deal includes TV’s from Samsung, Sony, LG and more — all up to 50 percent off.

Get on this deal this weekend and you may just have your TV in time to bask in the glory of the most meaningful Big Ten football championship in history! Don’t forget to cash in on that 65-inch Samsung 4k HD Curved TV for $400 off the retail price.

Want to go smaller? Try a 32-inch Samsung TV for under $200. Perfect for the bedroom or mounting on the wall so you can catch all four games going on at the same time!

While you’re at it, save even more by Trying an Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial and guarantee free two-day delivery on all your purchases. Seriously, what more could you want as a Big Ten fan this holiday season?

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