Ohio State fans hoping the Buckeyes would come out looking revitalized after a bye week cannot feel overly encouraged.
Sure, No. 10 Ohio State improved to 8-1 with a 36-31 win over Nebraska on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, but it wasn’t an overly impressive effort. Many of the same issues that plagued the Buckeyes in Oct. 21 loss at Purdue were evident against the two-win Huskers.
By halftime, Nebraska had racked up 256 yards of offense and led 21-16 thanks to two Dwayne Haskins fumbles. A Haskins interception opened the second half as well, making it three straight offensive possessions with a turnover for the Buckeyes.
But the OSU offense got things going later in the third, especially with its much-maligned ground game. J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber combined for 254 rushing yards, many of which came in the second half. Dobbins scored three touchdowns, including a 42-yard burst with 4:52 to go that gave OSU a 36-24 lead.
And after Nebraska scored quickly to cut the lead down to five, Dobbins ran out the clock to give OSU a much-needed win.
Ohio State hardly looked like a playoff-caliber team
After an 0-6 start, Nebraska entered the game on a two-game winning streak, but those wins came over Minnesota and Bethune-Cookman, a team added to the schedule as a makeup game. Nebraska has one of the poorer defenses in the country, allowing 438 yards per game. Against an opponent of that caliber, you’d expect a much better effort from Ohio State on offense.
With three turnovers, Haskins had one of his poorer efforts of the season so far. He struggled with his accuracy, especially during three second-half three-and-outs.
The defense, however, is a bigger concern. Nebraska, with true freshman Adrian Martinez, was able to exploit the porous OSU secondary for some big plays — something that has been a problem all year long for the Buckeyes. In the end, Nebraska totaled 450 yards of offense.
With just one loss, Ohio State remains in the College Football Playoff picture. Next on the schedule are two road trips to Michigan State and Maryland, both games that should be wins before hosting No. 5 Michigan on Nov. 24. That game will likely decide the Big Ten East title and who represents the Big Ten in the CFP.
If OSU plays against Michigan like it did Saturday, it won’t have much of a shot.
There were some positives, though
Haskins threw a ridiculous 73 passes against Purdue. The fact that Ohio State was able to get a running game going, albeit against a poor Nebraska defense, is an encouraging sign.
Another positive: red zone offense. Against Purdue, OSU mustered only six points on four red-zone trips. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on all three trips to the red zone against Nebraska.
So there were some things to feel good about for the Buckeyes.
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