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Insider

Four downs: Keys for Ohio State-Nebraska

10/5/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Critical areas for the Buckeyes as they continue Big Ten play with another top-25 matchup against Nebraska at home on Saturday (TV: ABC, 8 p.m.).

FIRST DOWN

Something emotional: The crowd is going to be amped up for a late kickoff. Another national audience will be watching. The Buckeyes want revenge after last season's collapse.

There figures to be no shortage of emotion for Ohio State to feed off when it hits the field on Saturday night, so perhaps the most important thing will be for the team will be to keep its emotions in check after waiting all day to play.

If the Buckeyes are too amped up on defense, they could get caught over-pursuing the football and give up a big play. If they're trying to do too much on offense, the turnover problem that hit them last week could pop up again. And on special teams, the Buckeyes have to stay even-keeled and avoid the costly penalties that have hurt them throughout the season.

SECOND DOWN

Miller magic: Nebraska has had its share of issues dealing with running quarterbacks, which no doubt has caught the attention of the Ohio State coaching staff and dual-threat sophomore Braxton Miller. And if the Buckeyes weren't already counting on him to deliver another heavy workload with 20 or more carries, the absence of running back Jordan Hall only increases the likelihood that Miller will have the ground game on his back again this week.

Carlos Hyde is closing in on full speed after missing a couple games with a knee strain, and he'll be an important figure between the tackles for the Ohio State offense. But Miller is the difference-maker and the Buckeyes are expecting there to be open rushing lanes for him on the perimeter -- and with the schedule softening up after the Huskers leave town, there won't likely be any reason not to turn him loose as often as necessary.

THIRD DOWN

Take that: Turning it over three times on offense is an issue. But that number doesn't look quite so bad if there are some takeaways on defense to offset it and balance the equation.

The Buckeyes pulled out a gutty win on the road without recovering a fumble or intercepting a pass despite some careless mistakes by Miller with the football, and both sides will have to do something to improve against the Huskers -- a team that has given the ball away more than it's snatched it back so far this season.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez has been much improved statistically through five games as a passer and has only thrown one interception, but the Buckeyes have seven picks already even without getting one from star cornerback Bradley Roby yet.

FOURTH DOWN

Kicking it: The "Freak Show" punt-block unit finally broke through to deliver some good field position for the Buckeyes last week, but the third phase clearly still isn't where Urban Meyer wants it as the season hits the midway point. He seemed particularly irritated this week with the kickoff unit after the Spartans took a couple returns out past the 30-yard line, which appeared to be a combination of issues with the coverage and the placement of the ball by kicker Drew Basil.

Meyer takes great pride and interest in what goes on with the specialists, and those problems will have had his full attention as the Buckeyes try to retain an edge in the kicking game. One positive for Basil -- he delivered three points when called on for a 26-yard field goal in a tight contest in the third quarter last week.