Ohio State expert gives his take and prediction on Saturday's game
Nebraska and Ohio State will play for the sixth straight season in Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
To get some more insight on the Buckeyes, HuskerOnline caught up with Scarlet and Gray Report's Colin Gay in this week's "Ask the Expert" breakdown.
Since the Oregon loss, how much better has this Ohio State team gotten?
"Ohio State viewed the Oregon loss as rock bottom, a chance for the Buckeyes to start from scratch.
"In each game since, Ohio State has gotten better and better, finding more and more confidence as an incredibly young roster got more game reps. Coming out of the off week against Indiana, you saw a team that began to hit its stride, clicking on all cylinders and dominating the Hoosiers on the road. Penn State put the Buckeyes back in their place a bit, really giving them their first opportunity to see what a No. 1 offense looks like against a top-20 defense.
"But to Ryan Day and the rest of the coaching staff, it's all been about experience, learning from a gritty win like a home win against a top-20 team and moving forward. It's still a team that's a work in progress, but there have been points in the past six games showing how far they have come."
The Buckeyes have had a lot of talented quarterbacks, where does C.J. Stroud stack up in the conversation?
"He's been special as a redshirt freshman, no doubt about it.
"Despite playing in seven of Ohio State's eight games this season — sitting out the Akron game to rest his sore throwing shoulder — Stroud is still No. 3 in the country in passing efficiency, No. 13 in points responsible for, No. 7 in passing touchdowns, No. 7 in passing yards per game and No. 6 in passing yards per completion.
"Since his return to the field against Rutgers, Stroud has completed 71.2% of his passes for 1,107 yards, 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.
"However, I think there is still a bit of hesitancy in terms of placing him in the realm of the Justin Fields' or J.T. Barrett's of the world. There's games coming that will show that, and there has been a bit of hesitancies and mistakes made when the lights have been on. However, there's no doubt that when Stroud is confident in and around the pocket, when he can his his receivers in stride and not feel rushed, he's one of the best quarterbacks in the country and maybe even be a Heisman contender."
Penn State played a physical four-quarter game with Ohio State. How did OSU come out of that game injury-wise?
"The big injury question for Ohio State is in its running back room.
"With Marcus Crowley out indefinitely with what Day called a "long-term injury," the Buckeyes have been down one more rotation running back in its past two games: junior Master Teague III.
"Heading into the Penn State game, Day said that Teague was "hopeful" to go against the Nittany Lions, but held him out. The Buckeyes missed him, as freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson recorded only three rushes of 10 or more yards."
Where do you see Ohio State having the biggest edge in this match-up?
"That being said, I think Ohio State has a remarkable advantage on its offensive line.
"Henderson is still No. 1 in the country averaging nearly eight yards per carry, while the unit has allowed only nine sacks in eight games. There's a lot of versatility on the line, converting two tackles — Thayer Munford and Paris Johnson Jr. — to the left and right guard positions, with their true guard Matthew Jones serving as their super-utility sixth-man, playing both guard spots along with serving as Ohio State's backup center.
"Ohio State's going to need to get a get-right game after Penn State on the offensive line, with the lack of success in the run game and the numerous false-start penalties. But this is a talented room, and one I think could dominate the Cornhuskers up front."
On the flip side, what worries you the most about this game for the Buckeyes?
"It's defending the pass in the middle of the field.
"Saturday night against Penn State, that was Sean Clifford's bread-and-butter, attacking the holes in Ohio State's zone for 10-15-yard gains consistently.
"Ohio State linebacker Teradja Mitchell, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed 11 receptions on 11 targets for 93 yards and the Nittany Lions only passing touchdown. There's a clear weakness there.
"If the Cornhuskers offense wants to move the ball against Ohio State, it's going to have to come from the slot and from its tight ends."
Finally, what is your score prediction and breakdown for Saturday’s game in Lincoln?
"Ohio State needs a game where it can show its dominance again, a game to put it back on track as the team to beat in the Big Ten.
"Facing a Cornhuskers team that has found a way to lose consistently close games, I'm not sure that "dominance" will come entirely. But I think for both sides of the ball, this could be a game where that potential of greatness returns.
"I have Ohio State 45-24."