LINCOLN, Neb. – Sixth-ranked Ohio State will be matched up Saturday night at Nebraska in a Big Ten test against a quarterback that coach Ryan Day chose not to recruit. Sophomore Adrian Martinez and the Cornhuskers will face a major challenge trying to take down the high-flying Buckeyes.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Ohio State -17.5
Ohio State goes into its second conference road trip of the season riding a 10-game overall winning streak, second longest in the country behind Clemson. Day explained Tuesday that Ohio State passed on Martinez in 2018 because there was some uncertainty after the California native had missed his senior year of high school with a shoulder injury. While Martinez has played well for Nebraska, beginning last year as a freshman, Ohio State is none the worse with Justin Fields as a first-year starting quarterback. The Georgia transfer has picked up right where first-round NFL draft pick Dwayne Haskins Jr. left off, accounting for 19 touchdowns (six rushing) in the Buckeyes' four blowout wins this season over Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Indiana and Miami (Ohio).
ABOUT OHIO STATE (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Fields has lived up to expectations from the get-go and his touchdowns accounted for are two more than Haskins had produced after four games a year ago. Fields' solid supporting cast, which has complemented him well, is led by junior running back J.K. Dobbins, who has rushed for 477 yards (fifth nationally) and five touchdowns on 68 carries (7.0 yards per attempt) - including 193 yards two weeks ago against Indiana. What might be the bigger surprise is the play of the defense, a much maligned unit a year ago that has shown a new energy under the guidance of a revamped coaching staff and the play of disruptive force Chase Young, who has 17.5 sacks since the start of the 2018 season.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (3-1, 1-0)
Martinez helped Nebraska avoid a significant upset at struggling Illinois last week when he led an offense that exceeded 300 yards rushing and 300 yards passing for the second time in school history in a 42-38 victory. Nebraska trailed Illinois by two touchdowns four times in the game before rallying behind the dual-threat Martinez, who passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 118 yards. Despite that close call and a overtime loss earlier in the month at Colorado, Nebraska still hopes to be a Big Ten title contender in the West Division, but the Cornhuskers need to shore up a defense allowing 25 points per game against a high-octane Ohio State offense that has scored 42 or more points in each of its four games.
1. Ohio State's defense ranks first nationally in first downs, second in sacks and total defense, No. 3 in points allowed and red-zone defense, and No. 5 in third-down defense.
2. Fields had a hand in six second-quarter touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in Ohio State's 76-5 blowout victory last week over Miami (Ohio), which according to STATS has not been done in one quarter in at least 20 years.
3. Nebraska went 0-3 against ranked opponents last year and has not beaten a Top 25 team since 2016 (No. 22 Oregon) or a team ranked as highly as No. 6 Ohio State since upending No. 2 Oklahoma in 2001.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 20