By Bob Hamar
Nebraska faces its biggest test of the season when it hosts Ohio State Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The fifth-rated Buckeyes are unbeaten and, according to Nebraska coach Scott Frost, better than they were a year ago with Urban Meyer as head coach and Dwayne Haskins, now with the Washington Redskins, at quarterback. New coach Ryan Day has stepped right in for Meyer and the Buckeyes haven’t missed a beat.
That hasn’t been a surprise for Frost.
“No. 1, he’s got a really talented team,” Frost said. “They’re good in all three phases. They have future Sunday players all across their lineup. He’s really smart.
“I met Ryan for the first time at a Chip Kelly golf tournament in Maine many years ago. He’s done a good job everywhere he’s gone. He’s climbed the coaching ranks and landed in a pretty good spot.”
Justin Fields, a transfer from Georgia, has stepped right in at quarterback and produced at a high level. Fields is completing almost 70% of his passes for 880 yards and 13 TDs with no interceptions in 95 passes.
Fields also helped the run game with 190 yards on 34 carries and six touchdowns.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he can throw really well, and he’s operating their offense right now,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “The question mark with him was can he come in and take command of that offense, and so far he’s done a pretty good job at doing that, and he’s a really good football player and he’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
The Buckeyes also have a top running back in J.K. Dobbins who has 483 yards on 68 carries (7 ypc) with five touchdowns.
“He’s Big Ten,” Darrion Daniels said. “It is filled with great running backs. We just have to do our best to keep them in front of us and definitely when we get hands on them, wrap them up and get 11 hands to the ball and try to get it out. It will take a full team effort and 100 percent effort to play 60 full minutes of hard-nosed football just to get the best result that we possibly can.”
Chanander said the Buckeyes offensive line will provide a big challenge for the Husker defensive front.
“Their offensive line is a good group,” Chinander said. “They’re a big group, it’s a physical group. They’ve done a nice job, they have a grad transfer in there, they have a couple of returning starters.. but I think our defensive line is pretty good.
“So I think it will be a really good matchup up front. it’s going to be competitive, they’re probably getting ready for a good matchup in the trenches.”
The Buckeyes have been tough on defense as well. They’ve only allowed 60 yards per game, although the level of competition is questionable.
“They can create havoc in the run game,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. “The linebackers are fast-flow guys. The secondary guys are going to get up in your face, pressure you, not let you get off the line of scrimmage.
“So, across the board they are an excellent defense. We have our work cut out for us. The guys understand that. They understand the challenge ahead and we have had a good couple of practices, so we are ready to go.”