Objectively, this game is a giant let down. When it was first scheduled, it was intended to be an epic battle between two powerhouse football programs that haven't met since the mid-50s to see which might control the future of the Big Ten conference. In other words, perfect for Brent Musburger's bombasticity.
Now, it's two teams both coming off bad losses looking for a conference win, with one a shadow of itself due to never-ending scandals. It's no wonder Kyle over at Dawg Sports picked it as his "National Game of Disinterest", although, yes, I get the irony of that coming from a Georgia site. (Even more ironic is that it's one of the games of the week despite the let down. Ha on you Georgia!)
Jim Tressel or no Jim Tressel, Ohio State's football identity hasn't changed. Ohio State is all about defense and they still are. They're all about playing tough-minded football, still about a grind-it-out offense that doesn't overwhelm their opponents most of the time, but only seeks to outscore them in the end.
Punting is winning? All about Ohio State.
Bottom line - there's nothing fancy here, there hasn't been for years. This one really is all about turnovers. If Nebraska doesn't make them, the Huskers win. The biggest difference between this Ohio State team and years past is that the Buckeyes have little to no offense - little to no poundability. If the Buckeyes are going to win this game, they'll need their defense to score. Pick sixes, fumble returns, short field, kick field goals.
The key is easy. Just take care of the football and the Huskers come away with the win.
But that'd make for a rather boring article, though, wouldn't it?
Avoid the Slugfest
You know the story. Nebraska played well for a quarter and a half against Wisconsin, then things didn't go so well. The common theme - Nebraska abandoned the run and the game got away from them.
That is not a reason to try pounding away at Ohio State with a power running game this week. Stopping that type of offensive strategy is where the Buckeyes excel, so why attack their strongest point?
That doesn't mean Nebraska has to come out and throw the ball all over the place. The Huskers have speed, so use it. Get to the edge. Use misdirection in the running game. Get Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah involved in the offense. (Braylon Heard is most likely still recovering from a leg infection.) This is the perfect game to get them some plays where they can succeed with speed. Use Rex Burkhead to pound the ball inside once in a while just to mix things up.
Don't Get Stuck In A Rut.... TIM!
To this point, Tim Beck has shown a tendency to get stuck in a rut. He calls the same play repeatedly. His desire to throw the ball repeatedly at Wisconsin was the mark of a guy who watched another guy ahead of him on the org chart for years, saying "If I had that job, I'd have done this, and this, and this, and we'd have done a lot better", and then when he finally gets the job has to spend time doing all those things he thought would work only to find out there was a reason the other guy did what he was doing in the first place. Football pundits like to talk about first-year starting quarterbacks and the growth they must go through. What about first-year coordinators?
It will be interesting to see how Beck mixes it up against Ohio State, or if he gets stuck in the rut again, calling the same ISO play over and over, right into the heart of the Ohio State line, gaining 2.7 yards a carry but being too stubborn to give it up and do something different.
Like call plays that use Nebraska's strengths so the offense can be successful.
Big Plays - Get ‘Em Don't Give ‘Em
It's not a matter of sticking with the run all the time, but if the passing game is to be successful with Taylor Martinez at quarterback, Tim Beck has to be judicious in his use of the pass. (OMG, here I am with Tim Beck again, maybe I'm the one that's stuck!)
That'd be where we're going over the top. Set up the play-action, and use the speed of Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner to kill the Buckeyes with big plays.
In the same regard, Wisconsin killed Nebraska will play-action passing, a staple of Ohio State's offense. Run left, run right, play-action. Run left, play-action. It's like toast. It ain't hard but you can still screw it up if you're not paying attention.
Blitz ‘Em To Win
True freshman Braxton Miller will get the start over Joe Bauserman. If you missed our Q&A with the Buckeye guys, well, Miller is a guy that's "not anywhere near ready yet", code for "can be rattled into inconsistency".
In other words, this is a game in which the Pelini defense should confuse the heck out of the opposing quarterback, disguising blitzes that will ultimately lead to sacks and turnovers. The defensive line so far this season has been underwhelming, the secondary lacking in physicality and takeaways. Time for Jared Crick to really squash someone. Time for Alfonzo Dennard, P.J. Smith, or even Ciante Evans to make a pick.
If the Blackshirt defense can't keep the Ohio State offense under 13 points, then we may need to worry about the rest of the season.