LOCATION: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, Oh.)
BETTING LINE: Ohio State (-15.5)
NEBRASKA PLAYER TO WATCH
Tommy Armstrong Jr.-Quarterback – #4
Tommy Armstrong Jr. has done more than compete in the Big Ten and has taken charge of the Nebraska offense this season. After what was seen as a “down year” for Nebraska, Armstrong has commanded the Cornhuskers into the top 25 this year and before last week, sat at the top of the Big Ten West. It is clear that the Cornhusker offense runs through their senior quarterback, and if they plan to rebound after tough overtime loss to Wisconsin, he will have to play at an exceptional level. He struggled to throw the ball against a tough Badger defense but is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Look for Armstrong to have control of the offense and the confidence to move the chains. This is a must-win game for Nebraska if they hope to climb back into the Big Ten race, so expect Tommy Armstrong to shoulder as much of the burden as possible.
OHIO STATE PLAYER TO WATCH
Curtis Samuel-Wide Receiver/Running Back – #4
At the beginning of the season, Urban Meyer stated that Curtis Samuel was the most dynamic player on the roster. With the Buckeyes’ offense struggling recently, it would only make sense to get the ball to the most dynamic player on the field. Coming into the game, Samuel has averaged an outstanding 7.9 yards per carry and found the end zone a total of eight times this season. Samuel has proven that he is able to take over games and spark big plays to help Ohio State put points on the board. In addition, J.T. Barrett has struggled to push the ball down field but with the ball in Samuel’s hands, in space, their offensive game plan should open up drastically. Meyer must find some answers for their offensive digression and Samuel could be the first step in the right direction.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Key Positions
Nebraska struggled to pass the ball against Wisconsin’s defense a week ago. Although Tommy Armstrong Jr. struggled to get the ball in the hands of his receivers, they still must find a way to get open against a tough Ohio State secondary. Nebraska has yet to have a premier receiver emerge but Jordan Westerkamp has reeled in four touchdown passes from Armstrong this season.
Nebraska failed to pressure Wisconsin a week ago and ultimately lost the game in overtime. Even with the struggles that Ohio State’s offense has endured, without controlling the line of scrimmage the Buckeyes will put points on the board. Freshman defensive lineman Carlos Davis has now recorded a sack in his last two contests and looks to put J.T. Barrett on his back in Columbus on Saturday.
After the firing of Bo Pelini, Nebraska has found success with their hiring of head coach Mike Riley. Stepping in as head coach in 2015, he has commanded Nebraska into a top 10 team in just two years. Riley must have his team firing on all cylinders after a tough loss in overtime a week ago. Columbus is a tough city to play in and Nebraska must win schematically to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
Tenth-ranked Nebraska travels to Columbus, Ohio to take on the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes at the “Horseshoe” for an 8 p.m. kickoff. Both teams are in a must-win situation as they try to stay afloat in the Big Ten.
Nebraska, commanded by second year coach Mike Riley, has exceeded expectations and finds themselves in the top ten headed to Columbus. Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. has played exceptional and has commanded the Nebraska offense. He is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and will have to live up to that reputation this week against the Buckeyes.
On the defensive side of the ball Nebraska comes into Columbus ranked 15th in points against. Playing smash-mouth Big Ten football, young talent must step up on their defensive line to slow down the Buckeyes. Led by senior linebacker Josh Banderas, Nebraska comes into the game featuring a majority of upperclassmen on their depth chart, and have been in big games before. Experience goes a long way in big games and must play smart against a very talented Ohio State offense.
The Buckeyes come into the game after struggling on offense over the last few weeks. With only four games left in the regular season, head coach Urban Meyer is trying to figure out what works schematically. A Heisman hopeful at the beginning of the season, J.T. Barrett’s flaw of being uncomfortable in the pocket has been exploited recently. Look for Meyer to slow down the offense and get the ball out of his quarterback’s hands quick as well as setting up the zone read to utilize his running ability.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State has relied on their front seven to keep them in games. Although it’s very basic schematically, they feature the athletes to run with even the best offenses in the FBS. Defensive leaders such as Tyquan Lewis and Raekwon McMillan must contain Tommy Armstrong Jr. on the edges and force him to set up in the pocket and throw the ball.
Ohio State Key Positions
Since Ohio State’s bye week, J.T. Barrett as simply looked uncomfortable in the pocket. Although his stats have not necessarily dropped, he has yet to really challenge a Big Ten team down field or solidify his Heisman candidacy. If the Buckeyes hope to find offensive success, they will have to rely on their quarterback looking ahead.
A week ago the Cornhusker offense struggled to pass the ball and relied heavily on their defense and run game to keep them in the game. If Ohio State’s stout defensive line can get after Tommy Armstrong Jr. and make plays in the backfield, it will alleviate pressure for the offense.
To compliment the defensive line, Ohio State’s linebackers must be two dimensional: covering the pass and keeping an eye on Armstrong Jr.’s ability to run. If Ohio State’s defense can force Armstrong into throwing the ball instead of relying on his legs, they could force a long day on the offensive side of the ball for the Cornhuskers.