Nebraska Preview

Nebraska (3-1) is a dynamite team that, so far this season, has had the tendency to explode and implode in almost equal measure.

They are ranked 15th in the number of plays from scrimmage that have traveled 50 yards or more, but they also go backward quite a bit and are 120th in tackles for loss allowed.

They are prolific at picking off passes with six interceptions, ranking them fifth in that category; but they are still give up passing yards, 240.0 yards per game, ranking them 81st.

Those interceptions, combined with four fumble recoveries, have the Huskers ranked as the top team in the Big Ten and No. 5 nationally in takeaways, but they are still -1 in turnover margin, 82nd ranked.

Consistent with a team that has had some ups and downs, they have also committed their share of infractions, and are 71st in penalties per game.

Many of those are procedural, false start-type penalties, which is to be expected with an offensive line that has zero seniors and a redshirt freshman starting center who's doing the remarkably difficult job of transitioning from tight end. Cameron Jurgens is the first freshman to start at center for the Huskers since 1972.

But that line is improving as it gains experience. Just two weeks ago against Northern Illinois, they anchored an up-tempo offense that rushed for more than 200 yards and passed for another two hundred-plus yards. The following week against (non-directional) Illinois? The Huskers rushed for more than 300 yards, specifically 346, and passed for an additional 327.

Of course, most of the credit for those numbers rests with sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez.

"To me, some guys can run and throw," said Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller, "but he's an actual run threat. He has to be accounted for at all times, but he makes all the throws, too. So he definitely can give you a headache."

Indeed, Martinez leads the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 263.0 passing yards and 58.5 rushing yards per contest.

His main weapon, when he throws, is JD Spielman. Buckeye fans are probably familiar with Spielman for a couple of reasons. First, he's the nephew of former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman. Second, he had 200 yards on 11 catches against OSU on an otherwise disappointing night for the Huskers in 2017. (They lost 56-14.) Spielman has at least two catches in every one of the 25 college football games he's played in.

Maurice Washington is a running back; Wan'Dale Robinson is a wide receiver, but both have shown the ability to run and catch. Ohio State coach Ryan Day, in fact compared Robinson to Purdue's Rondale Moore.

"He's really dynamic," he said. "He can be a matchup problem for you if he gets on a linebacker, or speed sweeps, things like that. He can do a bunch of different things, a little bit of a hybrid."

On the other side of the ball, Nebraska plays a 3-4 with brothers Khalil and Carlos Davis playing on the defensive line alongside Darrion Daniels. The Davis brothers are actually twins, and very twinsy twins, at that. In addition to both playing the same position for the football team, they both are All-American discus throwers, and both have graduated with degrees in child, youth and family studies.

Senior linebacker Mohamed Barry leads the team in tackles. Cam Taylor-Britt and Eric Lee, Jr. each have a pair of interceptions.

And a note on Nebraska's special teams: Their scholarship kicker has been injured, and so the Huskers have been having their punter and a walk-on defensive back handle kicking duties to expected results. They just recently added a soccer player to help them there.

Ohio State and Nebraska play at 7:30 p.m. with pregame on 610 WTVN starting at 5:00 p.m.

Other Nebraska nuggets:

  • This will be the second ever game featuring two college teams with 900 or more wins. The other was last year's Ohio State/Michigan game. And it's made possible by the fact that Nebraska came back from down two touchdowns versus Illinois last week to snag their 900th victory, 42-38.
  • Nebraska's roster stands at 153 players, the largest team in college football outside of the service academies.
  • The Huskers have scored on the opening drive in three of their first four games. The only exception was against Illinois.
  • The Davis twins are one of five sets of brothers on the Nebraska roster. Believe it or not, there's another college football team that does just as good a job at keeping things in the family. Clemson also features five sets of brothers.
  • And while Nebraska has won 21 of their last 23 home night games, there is also this fact from a great article on the current state of the Huskers program: "During the Playoff era Nebraska faced 18 teams who finished ranked in the final AP Top 25 of the season … and went 1-17 in those games." You can read that article here.