Cody Cousino / Photo editor
How’s the roster looking for this weekend?
Keeping track of the comings and goings of suspended and previously suspended OSU players has been quite a chore lately. Despite being scheduled to return to the Buckeyes this weekend after serving a five-game suspension that was originally administered in December 2010, senior receiver DeVier Posey and senior running back Dan Herron will remain suspended for an additional NCAA violation. Posey and Herron were overpaid by a former OSU booster for work they did not do. Sophomore offensive lineman Marcus Hall, who committed the same violation, is the latest Buckeye to be suspended and will miss the Nebraska game.
Senior left tackle Mike Adams and senior defensive lineman Solomon Thomas are returning from five-game suspensions and will dress for the game Saturday.
On the team’s latest depth chart, released to media on Tuesday, Adams is listed as the starter at left tackle and figures to provide some much-needed help for OSU’s offensive line. Thomas is not listed on the depth chart, but first-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell said he expects the player to seeing the field against Nebraska.
Sophomore wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown is expected to return after missing the Buckeyes’ previous three contests.
What’s the key to the game for OSU?
Protect the quarterbacks and keep the stingy defense coming.
The Buckeyes’ quarterback play was criticized after last Saturday’s 10-7 loss to Michigan State. Criticism should be reserved until we see a combination play calls from the coaching stuff that allow freshman Braxton Miller to get in a passing rhythm along protection from the offensive line, however. Miller and senior quarterback Joe Bauserman have been sacked 14 times in the last three games while sustaining other jarring hits — few quarterbacks can succeed in those conditions.
With Brown back at receiver for OSU, conditions are ripe for Miller to air it out at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend.
The Buckeyes’ defense is ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten and carried more than its share of the load in last weekend’s loss to the Spartans. OSU forced three turnovers, held Sparty to 10 points and a similar performance on Saturday could help lead to an upset victory in the Cornhuskers’ first Big Ten home game.
What players on Nebraska could hurt the Buckeyes?
The Buckeyes better come ready to stop the run on Saturday because junior running back Rex Burkhead and sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez have their sights set on OSU.
Burkhead and Martinez have combined for 16 rushing touchdowns and 998 yards on the ground.
When Martinez drops back to pass, he’s a serviceable signal-caller for the Cornhuskers. Martinez has completed 54-of-107 pass attempts for 823 yards and four touchdowns.
Burkhead and Martinez are quite the one-two punch.
Nebraska doesn’t appear to have one dominant wide receiver, though its receiving corps is large as 13 players have caught passes for the Cornhuskers this season.
Look for Burkhead to pound the rock, Martinez to air it out to one of his many receiving targets and, if he doesn’t find a target that suits him, he’ll tuck the ball and run.
What’s the key matchup for this game?
Nebraska’s rushing offense, ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten, is set to take on OSU’s No. 3-ranked rushing defense in the conference.
The Cornhuskers have rushed for 1,249 yards through five games, good enough for 250 yards per game and 18 touchdowns. By comparison, the Buckeyes have allowed only 94 yards per game and two touchdowns on the ground this season.
Saturday’s game could become a nasty battle in the trenches between the two teams.
Will OSU win its first-ever trip to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.?
The simple fact is that the 2011 season has already been a down year for the Buckeyes in some respects. OSU still has everything to play for, but the loss to MSU doesn’t leave Buckeye Nation with much reason to believe a turnaround is on the horizon.
Anyone that traveled to see the Buckeyes play at Wisconsin last year can be certain that home field advantage is a very real factor in every college football game. Nebraska will have a rowdy, sold out stadium supporting them on Saturday, so OSU will have to contend with that in addition to a talented Nebraska team.
One thing is certain: Having seen Nebraska play Wisconsin, we’ll have a clearer picture about how OSU will stack up against the Badgers, the current favorite to win the Leaders Division. OSU’s Big Ten outlook won’t be good after this weekend, though. It’s going to be one wild night in Lincoln this Saturday, and students and citizens alike will celebrate into the night when the Cornhuskers send OSU packing.
Final score prediction: Nebraska 31, Ohio State 13