The Ohio State machine just keeps on churning.
The fifth-ranked Buckeyes opened their season at home against Nebraska and the Huskers made things interesting early. The game was tied at 14-14 for much of the second quarter, but the Buckeyes were just too much for Nebraska to handle in the long run in an eventual 52-17 victory.
Justin Fields, Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback, started off his 2020 season with an outstanding performance. Fields completed 20-of-21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 54 yards and a score in the win.
His first touchdown pass was a thing of beauty — a 42-yard deep strike to Garrett Wilson to put the Buckeyes ahead 14-7.
Nebraska, though, showed some spunk in the early going. Scott Frost’s group opened the game with a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. And early in the second, they embarked on an 11-play, 78-yard drive to tie the score at 14-14.
It was all Ohio State for the rest of the way, though. The Buckeyes closed out the half with a field goal drive and then a touchdown to go into the break up 24-14. OSU then extended the lead to 31-14 on a 17-yard Fields touchdown run before breaking the game open with a 55-yard scoop-and-score by Sevyn Banks off an Adrian Martinez fumble.
What was just a 14-point halftime lead quickly ballooned into a 28-point margin for the Buckeyes midway through the third quarter. It was far too much for the Huskers to overcome.
What does this mean for Ohio State?
The Buckeyes showed why many believe they have the talent to compete with teams like Alabama and Clemson in the College Football Playoff. Let’s start with Fields. His poise and feel in the pocket, plus his accuracy, are what make him such a feared quarterback. But then you add his physicality in the running game and you’ve got one of the top players in the nation.
Fields has a deep group of receivers to spread the ball to, headlined by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Don’t sleep on OSU’s freshmen either. Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s first career touchdown catch was a thing of beauty.
The Buckeyes may take a bit more of a running back-by-committee approach in 2020 compared to having a clear No. 1 back like J.K. Dobbins. Master Teague, Dobbins’ backup in 2019, and Trey Sermon, the Oklahoma transfer, split carries pretty evenly — 12 for Teague and 11 for Sermon. The two combined for 89 yards, with Teague scoring two touchdowns.
The defense, though, will want to clean some things up entering next week’s game at Penn State. The Huskers were able to gash OSU for 210 yards on the ground, with the team’s two quarterbacks, Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, combining for 165 yards.
What does this mean for Nebraska?
Nobody expected the Huskers to go on the road to open the season and upset one of the top teams in the country. Over the course of 60 minutes, Ohio State was just too deep, physical and talented for Nebraska to handle. But there are some positives to take away from the game — the first half, at least.
The QB run game was clearly the strength for the Huskers, but the lack of a consistent downfield passing game won’t cut it as the season progresses. Martinez and McCaffrey were 16-of-20 for just 160 yards combined on the afternoon. Nebraska running backs had only 47 yards on 13 carries, too. Martinez was forced to carry a heavy load.
Defensively, there aren’t many teams who can hang with Ohio State. The Huskers are just one of those teams. Things won’t get easier, either, as No. 14 Wisconsin will travel to Lincoln next weekend. Wisconsin trounced Illinois 45-7 on Friday night.
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