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How can Ohio State beat Nebraska? Here are keys to OSU's matchup against the Cornhuskers

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Dedrick Mills (26) led Nebraska in rushing last season with 745 yards. He had 67 yards and a touchdown in a Sept. 28 loss to Ohio State.

Establish the run

Ohio State’s offense should find success in the trenches. Most teams fared well on the ground last season against the Cornhuskers, who finished 94th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rush defense. Nebraska saw five Big Ten running backs eclipse 100 rushing yards against them, including Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 204 yards. Experience is thin on Nebraska’s defensive line after every starter departed. It all suggests the Buckeyes’ powerful offensive line should open a few holes for running backs Trey Sermon and Master Teague III.

More:Ohio State football adjusting pregame routine, hotel stays for season

Pressure Martinez

In last season’s meeting in Lincoln, quarterback Adrian Martinez faced significant pressure from the Buckeyes, who sacked him four times. It led to a flurry of turnovers. He threw three interceptions, each of which jump-started scoring drives for Ohio State. Now a junior, Martinez got the starting nod over Luke McCaffrey, but he has been rattled before.

Don’t ease up

The last time Ohio State hosted Nebraska, in 2018, it built a 16-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. Then the Cornhuskers battled back in the second quarter and took a 21-16 halftime lead. The Buckeyes eventually prevailed in a narrow, 36-31 victory, but the OSU letup marked the only instance in recent meetings where the teams have been competitive. As heavy favorites, the Buckeyes shouldn’t let Nebraska hang around and prolong an upset bid.

More:Rob Oller: Ohio State football program rolls along while Nebraska rolls over

Key matchup

Nebraska offensive line vs. Ohio State defensive line

In the preseason, coach Ryan Day remarked that depth at defensive tackle loomed as the biggest concern for Ohio State. Both of last season’s starters are gone. That might leave Nebraska with an opportunity to find success on offense, particularly on the ground. It has its entire starting offensive line back, as well as its top three rushers, led by Dedrick Mills. But the Buckeyes also have a history of reloading stalwarts on its defensive line.

Key stat

53. Ohio State has averaged 53 points in its five-game winning streak against Nebraska, dating to 2012. The Cornhuskers are averaging 18.6 points per game in that stretch.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman