Two of the most vocal programs in getting the Big Ten season off the ground this fall will square off early on Saturday afternoon in one of the first matchups of the conference’s year. No. 5 Ohio State will host Nebraska in a matchup of premier programs potentially heading in different directions in 2020.
The Buckeyes have national title hopes with quarterback Justin Fields leading the charge on offense. Ohio State made it to the College Football Playoff in 2019 after posting an undefeated record in the regular season and winning the Big Ten. Nebraska, meanwhile, has yet to take off under coach Scott Frost as the program had high expectations he would take the Cornhuskers back to national prominence quickly.
There isn’t a long history between these programs, but it’s one that’s heavily-tilted toward the Buckeyes. Nebraska won its first meeting against Ohio State as a Big Ten member, 34-27 in 2011. The next year, Urban Meyer took over and things changed. Ohio State has won five straight, with four of the wins coming by at least 25 points. In fact, the average deficit has been 34.4 points, and that includes a five-point win in 2018 the last time they met in Columbus.
Can Nebraska close that gap this year, or are we in line for another Ohio State blowout? Odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
Ohio State: This is the best team in the conference. It is the Big Ten’s best chance at not only reaching the College Football Playoff, but winning a national title. While the gap between the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten isn’t as wide as the one between Clemson and the rest of the ACC, they are alone in their own tier like the Tigers. They have a Heisman finalist at QB in Justin Fields, and that’s just the tip of the talent iceberg. The only potential weak spot heading into the 2020 season might be a secondary that has a lot of talent to replace and not a lot of experience. But this is a problem the Buckeyes have solved plenty of times before.
Nebraska: The 2020 Nebraska season is likely going to come down to how the defense performs. On the offensive side of the ball, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. Adrian Martinez enters his third season as starter, and Wan’Dale Robinson is a big play waiting to happen. I would anticipate that with the talent and experience on that side of the ball, the Cornhuskers will improve on the 28 points per game they scored last year. But can the defense improve upon the 27.8 points it allowed per game last season? That unit loses a lot of the production it had last year, but that might be a blessing in disguise. The schedule-makers did this team no favors, but the natives in Lincoln are growing restless. Another mediocre season could see some wondering whether The Chosen One Scott Frost is the right person for the job.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 24 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Ohio Stadium — Columbus, Ohio
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
Let me start by saying that I don’t have a high level of confidence in this pick. More than anything, I’m putting faith in the Nebraska offense to find enough success to keep this game from getting too far out of hand. That said, I’m also relying on some early-season rust on Ohio State’s part. I also wonder that, with the Big Ten’s compacted schedule, if we’ll see Ohio State turn to its reserves more often should it build a big lead in an effort to keep everyone fresh and healthy. If that happens, it could help the Cornhuskers stay within this spread. Pick: Nebraska (+27.5)