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Steven M. Sipple: A legitimate concern about Martinez; and heading off heated Chinander talk
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Steven M. Sipple: A legitimate concern about Martinez; and heading off heated Chinander talk

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Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, 11, 16

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) runs with the ball against Wisconsin last season at Memorial Stadium.

Perhaps your thoughts are scattered because a virus has thrown a wicked wrench into our existence.

If you're a Nebraska football fan, maybe the odd nature of the 2020 season — Game 1 on Oct. 24 — plays tricks on your mind. 

My thoughts are all over the place (shocking, I know) as Saturday's game against fifth-ranked Ohio State nears, but a few topics crystallize as being particularly intriguing. 

1. My first thought about Nebraska junior quarterback Adrian Martinez is he needs to push forward with a gunslinger mentality and avoid looking over his shoulder at the kid from Colorado who so thoroughly captures our imagination. 

Gunslingers don't look over their shoulder. At least that's my perception of Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Jim "Killer" Miller and the like. 

Martinez, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, needs to attack when it's warranted. Be bold. With redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey nipping at his heels, Martinez may be inclined toward making safe decisions that are oriented toward merely keeping his job. His teammates and coaches surely would prefer Martinez is making decisions oriented toward winning games. It's an important distinction. He may have to take a few chances. He can't be hesitant. 

All the while, though, he would benefit from operating within the confines of Nebraska's system, according to Joel Klatt, Fox Sports analyst and former Colorado quarterback. Klatt shared valuable wisdom this week on Nick Bahe's podcast. 

Scouting Ohio State: Breaking down the Buckeyes

Last season, Klatt said, he sometimes saw Martinez try to make plays beyond what the system allowed. It's a common affliction among veteran quarterbacks who have gained a certain comfort in a system. 

"So many times, it's really just as boring as letting the system work," Klatt said. "I see it all the time. Spencer Rattler is dealing with this at Oklahoma right now. It's one of the reasons Lincoln Riley benched him during the Red River game (against Texas). It was like, 'Hey, come take a seat and realize that my offense is better than you. I know your entire life you were a talented kid and you could run around in high school and make plays above the X's and O's. But that's a high school offense. This is college football. You can't do that.'

"Even great players have to play within a system, and that's when their ability is maximized." 

I agree with Klatt, for the most part. But there will be times when Martinez has to take a chance and perhaps throw into a tight window on third-and-long as opposed to making a safe throw short of the first-down marker. If he errors on the side of aggression, it'll most often be acceptable, at least to reasonable people. Emphasis on "reasonable."

Along those lines, too many people who lack reason still fail to understand that there were legitimate explanations — as opposed to excuses — for his struggles last season. For instance, "The offensive line was not good," Klatt said. "That's got to get fixed. As a quarterback, there's only so much you can do if your offensive line is playing poorly." 

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Klatt thinks the competition with McCaffrey ultimately will benefit Martinez.

"I would imagine that putting him back into a battle makes him go back to the foundation of the offense," Klatt said. "Just run the offense. Because that's what you're going to grade out positively on. Take what the defense gives. If it's a hitch (route), throw the hitch. Just throw it." 

When the defense dictates that you need to take a shot downfield, Klatt said, take it. Be a gunslinger. 

Yes, even with the kid from Colorado nipping at your heels.

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2. Let's head something off at the pass before a certain conversation gains steam. 

Yes, Ohio State's going to pile up yards and probably points against Nebraska. But let's try to avoid the predictable discussion about whether Erik Chinander is the right man to lead Nebraska's defense. 

Cool your Twitter jets. 

You definitely can't base that discussion on this particular game because Ohio State may have the best offense in the country. In fact, ESPN this summer projected it as numero uno. 

The great Charlie McBride couldn't hold Ohio State to 21 points with the talent Chinander currently has on hand. 

Nor could Monte Kiffin. Or, heck, Bill Belichick. 

It's an undeniable fact: In terms of talent, Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will be playing Saturday with a stacked deck. 

Want to take the measure of the 2020 Huskers on Saturday? Look no further than the trenches

“We have a chance to maybe be as individually talented as we've been,” said Wilson, according to the Columbus Dispatch. 

That's saying a mouthful. 

In his three years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes have averaged 523.8 yards per game, third-best in the country. OSU has thrown more touchdown passes (138) than any other team, and last year J.K. Dobbins became the school’s first 2,000-yard rusher.

Wilson believes the 2020 Buckeyes can be just as productive, if not more. Keep in mind, they racked up 580 yards (7.7 per play) in their 48-7 win last year in Lincoln. 

This isn't to say Chinander gets a pass completely. Let's see what he tries differently. The plan can't stay the same. Or the result most certainly will. 

3. My esteemed co-host on "Early Break" (93.7 FM), Jake Sorensen, raised an interesting question this week: Who's more important to Nebraska's offense, running back Dedrick Mills or receiver Wan'Dale Robinson?  

I lean toward Mills. He gained 347 yards over the final three games of 2019. If he's churning at that level, the play-action game would look much better. The pressure would ease on Martinez, and Robinson, for that matter.

Mills looks to be far-and-away NU's best back. He's a tough hombre, and it rubs off.

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