Nebraska Preview: #9 Cornhuskers at #6 Ohio State
After falling just short in their first big test of 2016, the Nebraska Cornhuskers didn't have much time to regroup for their biggest opportunity of the regular season - a nationally televised, top ten match-up at Ohio State, Saturday night.
The #9 Huskers (7-1/4-1) square off against the #6 Buckeyes (7-1/4-1) for the for the first time since 2012. Neither team can afford another loss in 2016 if they want to contend for a National Championship.
The Huskers come in with a one-game lead in the West Division of the Big Ten Conference, Ohio State is one game back of Michigan in the East Division.
The Buckeyes are the number two rushing team in the Big Ten, but are looking for more from the arm of quarterback JT Barrett down the field against Nebraska. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel is number two in the conference in receptions.
The OSU offense, under the direction of former Husker offensive coordinator Tim Beck, has been sputtering a bit lately. The Buckeyes last three games (two wins and a loss) have been decided by a total of ten points. Just once during that stretch has Ohio State put up 30 points, after scoring an average of 53 a game in the first five weeks.
The Buckeye defense is sixth in the nation against the run and has allowed just three rushing touchdowns all season. They rotate in several players up front and have two players, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa, that have seven quarterback sacks between them. Sophomore Jerome Baker and junior Raekwon McMillian anchor a very talented group of linebackers.
The Nebraska offense, which has struggled early in games lately, could get another weapon back this week, as tight end Cethan Carter is expected to play after missing nearly four games with an elbow injury. The Husker offensive line is still banged up, with only two starters expected to play Saturday.
Kickoff is 7:00 PM, Saturday, in Columbus. You can follow the Huskers live, all season long on ESPN 99.1.
Last weekend, the Huskers suffered their first loss of 2016, falling 23-17 in overtime at #11 Wisconsin.
Nebraska's defense picked up the offense, allowing just three points off of two Tommy Armstrong first half interceptions.
Down 17-7, the Big Red offense found its stride late, putting together a 14 play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to pull to within three.
Sioux Falls native Nate Gerry then went to work in the Nebraska secondary, picking off passes on consecutive Badger possessions, the second setting up a Drew Brown 35-yard field goal to tie the game.
The Cornhuskers dodged two bullets late, a missed field goal from Wisconsin with 1:43 left and a missed extra point after a Badger overtime touchdown - leaving the door open for a Nebraska win. But rather than going for a first down on fourth-and-eight from the 23, the Husker offense decided to go for broke, and the end zone, when Tommy Armstrong's pass to Stanley Morgan fell incomplete and Wisconsin had a six-point win.
Ironically, Nebraska, which had been struggling to get respect when they were winning, finally got some in defeat, reaming in the Top Ten in the AP Top 25 (#9), and checking in at #10 in the first FBS Playoff Ranking of the season.
I talked with the 'Voice of the Huskers', Greg Sharpe, about the Wisconsin loss and week's match-up with Ohio State: