Five burning questions heading into Ohio St. week
1. How much has Nebraska grown?
The two times Nebraska went on the road and played some the Big Ten’s best, they ended up as total disasters.
The Huskers were no match for then-No. 19 Michigan in a 56-10 drubbing, and then No. 16 Wisconsin pulled away and never looked back in a 41-24 blowout.
The Huskers were slightly improved against the Badgers compared to where they were vs. the Wolverines, but it was obvious they still had a long way to go to compete with the league’s top teams.
Nebraska has continued to grow since then, though, and it now has two convincing victories under its belt to support that progress. How much will that development show in one of the biggest tests of the year this week at No. 11 Ohio State?
2. Is Martinez ready for the Shoe?
Like the rest of his teammates, quarterback Adrian Martinez was not good at Michigan. He was significantly better at Wisconsin, but it was still not good enough.
Now the true freshman enters one of the most hostile road environments in the Big Ten on Saturday in what will be one of his most daunting tasks yet. The Buckeyes have lost just three of 48 home games under head coach Urban Meyer.
To his credit, Martinez has made massive gains in his development and is now playing the best football of his young career. But is he ready to compete – and win – against an elite defense like Ohio State’s.
For Nebraska to have a chance this week, it’s probably going to come down to just how far Martinez has come.
3. Can the run game keep it up?
Martinez is going to have to run the show against Ohio State, but his running game could give him a huge boost if it can stay at the level it’s been the past few weeks.
Senior Devine Ozigbo has taken over as NU’s workhorse back, already rushing for 710 yards and eight touchdowns and cracking the century mark in four of the past five games.
But the emergence of Maurice Washington has also been an important part on the ground game resurgence, as has Martinez’s production as a runner.
That three-headed attack will need to be at its best against a Buckeye defense that is loaded with talent but hasn’t quite played up to its usual standards.
4. Will the Blackshirts be up to the test?
Nebraska’s defense had its issues between the 20s, but it’s been much better regarding keeping points off the scoreboard and creating game-changing turnovers.
But the Blackshirts are going to be facing an animal different from anything they’ve seen all year at Ohio State. Led by quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the Buckeyes boast the best offense in the Big Ten, averaging 43.0 points and 555.5 yards per game.
Even worse, OSU has thrown 31 touchdown passes to just five interceptions on the year and has only lost two fumbles on 315 rushing attempts.
Will the Huskers be able to slow down Ohio State enough while also coming up with the key turnovers you need to upset a ranked team on the road?
5. Can Morgan, Spielman stay on record pace?
It seems as if after every game there’s another update on how many spots Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman have climbed up Nebraska’s receiving record books. The win over Bethune-Cookman was no exception.
With a game-high seven catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns, Morgan moved to within 18 career receptions (163) of Kenny Bell’s school-record 181. His 20 career touchdown catches are just five away from Johnny Rodgers’ career mark (25).
Morgan has also now caught at least one pass in 34 straight games, three shy of the NU record, and he has at least three receptions in 19 of the past 20 games.
As for Spielman, his five catches for 72 yards vs. BCU moved him into 10thplace on the career yardage list at 1,516 and is now tied for ninth with 108 career receptions. With 53 grabs this year and 57 last season, the sophomore joined Rodgers and Bell as only the third player in school history with two 50-catch seasons.
Ohio State’s secondary has been suspect at times, ranking 10thin the Big Ten in pass defense at 241.1 yards allowed per game. Another big game from Morgan and Spielman would be exactly what Nebraska’s needs and help them climb further up the record books.