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Ohio State 52, Nebraska 17 | Scarlet & Gray Matter analysis

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State players take the field in a nearly empty Ohio Stadium before Saturday's game against Nebraska.

Joey Kaufman’s observations about Saturday's game:

The game at hand

‒ Short-attention-span synopsis: Some rust had to be shaken off. It was a long offseason, a layoff of 301 days. Ultimately, the Buckeyes kicked into gear.

‒ Pregame buzz: The staunchest advocates for football this fall in the Big Ten squared off, a fitting start to the conference’s pandemic-shortened season. But Ohio State and Nebraska are otherwise riding diverging tracks. One is primed for contention for the College Football Playoff, seeking its first national championship since 2014, the first season under the current format, while the other is seeking the road to respectability following three consecutive losing seasons.

‒ Spread the wealth? Not only have the Buckeyes won six games in a row over Nebraska, but they have also covered sizable point spreads in five of the six triumphs. The latest 26-point line was the biggest one of this recent stretch, surpassing a 24-point line in 2017. Both ended up as similar results for Ohio State, which left with a 56-14 win three years ago and with a 52-17 rout on Saturday.

‒ Strategically speaking: Quarterback Justin Fields ran 15 times on Saturday, the second-most in a game in his Buckeyes career. It was due to how the game unfolded, Fields said, rather than being a pregame emphasis, but his legs could be used more frequently in this season if the rest of the ground game stalls.

‒ This week in vanity plates: ONEDOWN

The View

‒ How the team sees it: Nebraska was not an obstacle for Ohio State when it sought to vote to play this season, nor much of one on the field.

‒ How the pollsters will see it: Maybe they can reclaim their No. 2 preseason ranking.

‒ How Buckeye Nation sees it: Should we worry about a defense that had some trouble tackling in the first half?

Hey, what Day did say?

‒ What he said: “The expectations are high, but the reality is just to go 1-0 is a great day.”

‒ What it means: “Two months ago, it looked like we might not be anything other than 0-0.”

They said it

‒ Your turn/the channel: During Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show, Urban Meyer described Justin Fields as an amalgamation of two of his former Ohio State quarterbacks. He offered that Fields carries the speed of Braxton Miller and the arm talent of Dwayne Haskins. Over the next three hours, Fields lived up the billing. He threw two touchdown passes and also scored on a 17-yard run in which he spun into the end zone, mirroring Miller’s slippery spin from 2015’s season-opening win at Virginia Tech.

‒ Pregame chatter: During a SportsCenter appearance early Saturday, analyst and former Buckeyes quarterback Kirk Herbstreit said it was like Christmas morning with the Big Ten’s return to the field this weekend. Games across the league this weekend represented the biggest change to the college football landscape, especially the College Football Playoff, which had looked increasingly short on contenders outside Alabama and Clemson.

Numbers for dummies

6-1: Ohio State’s record against Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011.

34.5: Average margin of victory throughout Ohio State’s six-game winning streak over Nebraska.

95.2: Completion percentage for Justin Fields, who connected on 20 of 21 passes.

7: Times wide receiver Garrett Wilson was targeted in his debut in moving to the slot, leading the team. Also his receptions total.

55: Yards cornerback Sevyn Banks returned a fumble for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.

12: Carries by Master Teague, who got the start at running back, and had one more rush attempt than Trey Sermon.

2: Targeting ejections for Nebraska players.

38:24: Final minutes of the game in which the OSU defense held the Cornhuskers to one field goal.

1:51: Time of possession by Nebraska on its opening drive against the Buckeyes, resulting in a touchdown.

4,770: Fan cutouts that were on display in the lower bowl of Ohio Stadium.

On tap

The buildup for a looming Halloween night tilt at Penn State was lowered a little bit after the Nittany Lions were handed an upset at Indiana on Saturday night, a last-second 36-35 loss. Due to the defeat, this season’s Ohio State-Penn State will be the first since 2016 in which both teams are not ranked in the top 10.  

Tweethearts

Best responses to the game on Twitter:

@lord_of_fandoms: my Saturdays are back!! 

@cycloMatty: someone tell the defense that this counts now 

@RobPep12: Justin Fields. That’s the tweet. Not a defense in America can stop this Buckeyes offense. 

@JoeB_inCLE: That first Nebraska drive was a “thank you” from the Buckeyes for their help on getting this season started. 

@MOBuckeyes42: It’s insane to me that bigten teams can’t have their bands and mascot. That’s beyond absurd. 

@jsnider33: We might have the slowest LBs in the nation 

@THEBuckeyeDrip: Buckeyes defensive line has spoiled us for a long time. Welcome back to Earth. It’s not that good. 

@Infamous_JW: Oh hey, the 2018 OSU defense is back. Sup guys. Linebackers how ya doing. 

@MegNBrews: Scott Frost, I love when grown men throw tantrums... said no one ever! 

@stays_in: This half is karma for not allowing Brutus to be at the game 

@bkelley076: There are no worse announcers than Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt. Just awful 

@MyRandomness03: Okay but everyone saw Nebraska's coach trying to pull his facemask up before he said the swear word, right? 

@sully_assyrian: Game ball already being designated for the refs who will help buckeyes win 

@RyanWile: Justin Fields is a cheat code. 

@Slimdog: Wondering what them Georgia cheerleaders are thinking right about now watching Justin Fields from their couch yo... 

@Ben__Spaeth: I think we can go ahead and bump Notre Dame from that #3 spot 

@davidmoore_7: Ohio State finally woke up and realized Tom Osborne isn't on the Nebraska sideline and it's not the 90s. 

@e_schenker: Chris Olave is going to need a LOT of ice packs after this game. Kid is getting murdered. 

@Deck12G: Who teaches tackling @HuskerFBNation? horrible. Get these guys off the field! Every open field tackle is using the Greg Williams approach: “Kill the head and the body is dead.” 

@lanamarie27: Can we take a minute and discuss how badass it is that our RBs names are Master Teague and Steele Chambers?? They sound like an amazing crime fighting duo. 

@buckeye2006: What a catch!! I could watch 100 replays of that and still not understand how he got his foot in 

@BourbonGirl83: Was Nebraska’s game plan targeting? If so, winning! I understand the CFB targeting rule needs reviewed, but when you launch your body, it’s hard to overturn. 

Horseshoe haiku

With #wewanttoplay 

Wish granted, Buckeyes’ next aim: 

#wemustplaybetter 

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman