Indiana Ohio St Football

Ohio State relies heavily on J.T. Barrett in the run game.

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Coach: Urban Meyer (fifth season)

Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten)

Rankings: 6 (CFP, AP and Coaches)


Offensive averages

(National rank in parentheses)

Points: 42.6 (10)

Total yards: 492.9 (20)

Rush yards: 272.4 (8)

Pass yards: 220.5 (77)

Offensive rating: 9


Defensive averages

Points: 15.1 (6)

Total yards: 295.5 (6)

Rush yards: 124.4 (25)

Pass yards: 171.1 (9)

Defensive rating: 8


Special-team averages

Kickoff returns: 23.6 (26)

Punt returns: 5.6 (88)

Net punting: 42.7 (4)

Special-teams rating: 7


By the numbers


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There are 44 freshmen on Ohio State's roster and 30 have played this season, including 12 true freshmen.


Since Urban Meyer's arrival, Ohio State has averaged 273.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks second among Power Five schools.


Meyer holds a 17-6 career record against top-10 teams, including 6-3 at Ohio State.


Why you may need Rolaids

1. J.T. Barrett (16) will put a lot of pressure on the Blackshirts with his legs (the quarterback draw will be a play to watch for). He's rushed 121 times for 531 yards and six touchdowns, and ranks second in the Big Ten in total offense (275.8 yards per game). The junior is known for his ability to make quick decisions. "He's one of those guys that, yes, you may need to spy on in passing situations because the threat of what he does running the ball in those situations, even on non-called runs by the quarterback, they can be so disruptive," NU coach Mike Riley said.

2. Speed. The Buckeyes have it all over, especially at the skill positions. Freshman tailback Mike Weber (25) has rushed for 770 yards, and wide receiver Noah Brown (80) has 309 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The biggest challenge will be the guy wearing No. 4. Curtis Samuel is capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the ball. He has 558 rushing yards (7.9 yards per attempt) and 44 catches for 539 yards. OSU got the junior speedster more involved in the offense during last week's game against Northwestern.

3. Nebraska's offense will match up against another top-10 defense. Ohio State has given up just three rushing touchdowns, and it has scored four defensive touchdowns, which ranks second nationally. Raekwon McMillan (5) is an All-America-caliber player at linebacker. He leads the team in tackles with 51. And Malik Hooker (24) is a ball-hawking safety. He has 50 tackles and four interceptions.


Why you may chill

1. Northwestern slot receiver Austin Carr was a thorn in the Buckeyes' side last week, catching eight passes for 158 yards. Damon Arnette (3) was in charge of covering Carr, and he'll be assigned to Jordan Westerkamp, unless OSU makes some personnel tweaks.

2. The Buckeyes' vertical passing game has been absent, and they may be without wide receiver Parris Campbell (21), who has 10 catches. Ohio State is 97th nationally in yards per completion, and the lack of that deep-threat component has allowed teams to bring up the safeties for run-game help. Penn State sacked Barrett six times in its 24-21 upset two weeks ago.

3. Ohio State isn't playing its best football at the moment (Though this is a team highly capable of snapping out a funk fast), and the Buckeyes will be playing a Nebraska team that picked up some confidence vs. Wisonsin. A young OSU team is still looking for its identity. "Two-thirds of the journey is completed," OSU linebacker Chris Worley told reporters this week. "There's a whole new third, and we're still scratching and fighting to get that identity."


Press coverage

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for the Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio State has shown the past two weeks that it’s human. How much of that is tougher competition, and how much of it is self-inflicted?

Rabinowitz: "As you might guess, both. Penn State had a week off to prepare and got two key linebackers back from a position that had been decimated. Northwestern played very well. Its quarterback and top receiver (Clayton Thorson and Austin Carr) were in sync. But the Buckeyes faltered for big chunks of the game. They had five straight possessions end in punts against Northwestern and blew a 21-7 lead against Penn State."

What were Penn State and Northwestern doing defensively to keep Ohio State’s offense in check for long stretches?

Rabinowitz: "Both teams tried to take away the Buckeyes' deep passing game, which isn't very hard to do these days. That forced Ohio State to dink and dunk down the field, and it had sporadic success doing that. Penn State's defensive line dominated the game in the second half. Barrett seldom had time to throw. The protection was better against Northwestern, but the passing game still didn't really click."

Urban Meyer sounds confident that the passing game will regain its explosiveness. What signs have you seen that might suggest that?

Rabinowitz: "Well, they have recruited a bunch of four-star guys for those positions. Noah Brown is capable, as he showed in his four-TD performance against Oklahoma. Curtis Samuel is a threat as a hybrid. They have other guys — Terry McLaurin, James Clark, etc. — but they have not consistently delivered. Could it happen this week? Sure. But OSU fans have been waiting for it since the Rutgers game a month ago."

The Buckeyes got Samuel more involved against Northwestern. Should Nebraska expect a similar dose of Samuel?

Rabinowitz: "He's the Buckeyes' most consistent weapon. He has the speed and elusiveness and just enough size and strength to be a threat for a big play every time he touches it. Ideally, Ohio State would like him to touch the ball 15 times, give or take a few. He's dangerous as both a runner and receiver."

Nebraska saw one of the nation’s top defenses in Wisconsin last week. How does Ohio State’s defense compare?

Rabinowitz: "I was impressed with Wisconsin's defense when Ohio State played the Badgers. The cornerstone of the (OSU) defense is the play of the cornerbacks — Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore (along with Denzel Ward, who rotates in). Both of those players are future high NFL draft picks. Safety Malik Hooker might be the most-talented player on the defense. The defensive line has been very good against both the pass and run. The linebackers have been solid. Middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan is the biggest name, but Jerome Baker has been a surprise since taking over for Dante Booker when he was injured in the opener. Really, the defense doesn't have a glaring flaw, though Carr ate up nickel corner Damon Arnette at times last week."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsCG.


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