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If Nebraska can accomplish the following keys to victory, they will walk out of Ohio State with a 2-0 conference record.
This will be a huge road test for the Cornhuskers. Ohio St. obviously has a ton of talent, and it appears they're beginning to find their groove. Offensively, they're becoming more comfortable with their identity, Braxton Miller, take ball and run and throw.Their defense, which has plenty of NFL talent, came up big last week against Michigan State's running game.
Nebraska should have momentum after the excellent second half last week against Wisconsin. This is a senior laden team; they should be ready for the challenge at the Horseshoe. If the Huskers can accomplish the following keys to victory, I can foresee a 2-0 conference start.
- Bracket Braxton: Braxton Miller is a phenomenal athlete. He's going to get some yards and make some plays. But dual threat quarterbacks can be contained, and that's what the Blackshirts need to do. Hit him hard and often. Limit his scrambles. The secondary needs to stick to their guys an extra second or two. Will Compton and the Husker D-line need to play like they did the second half of Wisconsin.
- Gang tackle: There was a quote early in the week from Will Compton about avoiding getting into a "dance" with Miller. I think the only way to avoid the ankle breaking moves and big gainers is to have 11 Blackshirts swarming to the ball. Pelini's defenses can be suffocating and intimidating when they're all flying around, and that's what it will take against Ohio St. Blackshirt swagger.
- Cash in on the money down: Probably the best defense against Miller is to keep him off the field. The Nebraska offense needs to win on third downs and sustain drives. Quick three and outs will pump up their crowd and give their offense many more opportunities. Conversely, on defense the Blackshirts have to hold on third down. It's demoralizing for a defense when they hold them to a third and long only to have a quarterback scramble for twenty yards or hit a big pass play. Win third downs on both sides of the ball.
- Hit some big plays: Nebraska has, in my opinion, the most talent and explosiveness offensively in the B1G. Yeah, 10-12 play drives are ideal and can really wear on a defense, but in order to win this game Nebraska will need Kenny Bell, Rex Burkhead, Jamal Turner, Ameer Abdullah, Kyler Reed, or Taylor Martinez to make a couple big plays. Perhaps Tim Beck has a few formations and plays he hasn't shown that he can pull out of his hat. We've seen plenty of diversity in formations and personnel, the diamond formation, Abdullah and Burkhead flanking both sides of Martinez in the shotgun, the standard power-I, etc., so hopefully Beck will find even more ways to utilize all his weapons.
- Win the turnover battle: I promised at the beginning of the year I wouldn't list this one every week, but it's too damn important on the road against a very talented, well coached, good football team. If Nebraska continues to put the ball on the ground, this game could get ugly. On the other hand, Martinez has been excellent in avoiding interceptions, and he needs to value the ball this game. Braxton Miller has a penchant for turning over the ball; the Blackshirts need to continue encouraging that trend.