Colin: So here we go. Night game on the road with ESPN Game Day in town to whip the locals into a frenzy. What does Ohio State have to do to win this game?
Baver: On O, the Bucks have to continue to mix things up well, something Ryan Day excels at. The Huskers haven’t been strong stopping the rush or the pass, even with their weak schedule so far. If the Buckeyes don’t do NU favors with turnovers, the Huskers are going to have problems holding OSU under 40. But Dobbins, Fields and Teague have each lost fumbles in September. On D, they can’t let Adrian Martinez extend too many plays with his legs. If he starts to do so, Memorial Stadium will get loud, and could be a big boost for the home team.
Colin: Bucky Badger took Michigan to the woodshed last week. Is there any hope for this Michigan squad, and is Michigan that bad or Wisconsin that good?
Baver: It’s not a matter or either/or....Wisconsin is really good and Michigan is a train wreck. And I keep hearing people say “...anyone could run behind that Wisconsin line”. While this is once again a great Badger O-line, Jonathan Taylor is the best tailback in the country.
I’d say “very little” hope for Michigan. I thought the bettors and sportswriters had them overrated in August, but still thought they would be better than most OSU fans thought they would be. Then I watched most of the Michigan’s first two gms on DVR, and it was obvious they had real problems on offense. Now it’s obvious they have real problems everywhere. If you want an in-depth breakdown as to why Michigan is falling apart, read Tony Gerdeman’s excellent piece from THEOZONE linked HERE.
Colin: If Notre Dame runs the table will their loss at Georgia be treated as a “win” allowing them to sneak back into the playoffs?
Baver: Probably not. Ohio St got the benefit of the doubt getting into the 2016 Playoff, but then got slaughtered by Clemson. That humiliation played a factor in 2017 and 2018 with OSU narrowly missing the Playoff both years. The Irish got annihilated by Clemson last year, which will also factor in if ND is on the bubble come December. I think after OSU’s 2-year Playoff hiatus, there will be more push to put Ohio St in the show this year if they are borderline once again. Colin, you know I’m usually hesitant to go out on a limb, but either Wisconsin or Ohio St is heading to the Playoff this year, and Notre Dame is NOT.
Colin: Has Brian Phillips recovered from last week’s Washington State loss to UCLA and should we bet the over on the Cougs this week too?
Baver: Good lord...it was 42-17 Cougars with less than 7 minutes left in the 3rd qtr! I didn’t bother to look at the score after that, and didn’t know about the comeback until Sunday. I see the over/under for WSU’s game against Utah this week is only 57. This, after you could have cashed a ticket that had “UCLA vs Was St: Total Pts Over 129” printed on it last week!
Colin: What could be the recipe for disaster?
Baver: This is going to get way overblown by ESPN, but OSU has to keep track of do-it-all Husker freshman Wan’Dale Robinson. Ohio St of course got lit up by Purdue do-everything, freshman Rondale Moore a year ago. And you of course have the rhyming first names that ESPN will want to talk about all night if Robinson is fueling a possible upset. Wan’Dale isn’t quite at Moore’s level, but requires quite a bit of attention. And I touched on this before...OSU has to at least be adequate in keeping Adrian Martinez in the pocket.
Colin: Is this a bigger statement game for the 2019 Silver Bullets or Justin Fields?
Baver: Probably for Justin. Almost all of the Buckeye defensive players that will play Saturday night have played in a white-out in Happy Valley before. Justin Fields has not yet started a game in a hostile environment during his CFB career. His only road game was at Ohio Stadium West in Bloomington, Indiana.
Colin: Final thoughts and prediction on OSU v Nebraska?
Baver: In August, this is one of the games I feared the most. But from what I have seen from both teams so far, NU may get stomped. There is a big talent differential, and while Ohio St has looked like a machine, the Huskers look like they are at least a year away. I don’t see the Nebraska holding OSU under 40 pts. And while I think NU will challenge the Buckeye D, I don’t see them scoring north of 30. I’ve got Ohio State 45-24.
Colin: What other games and lines will you be keeping an eye on this weekend?
Baver: Not much, so I’ll add this first. Ohio St cannot lose this game. If they do, the word “fraud” will be mentioned over a million times next week after OSU looked almost flawless burying their sub-par opponents. If OSU is not on their game and gets pushed to the wall, they have to find a way to win in what will be the 372nd consecutive sellout in Memorial Stadium.
Okay, other games/lines....I’d take Northwestern +24.5 at Wisconsin, and I see Notre Dame is now a 12.5 pt fav at home against Virginia. Both ND and Wisc are in tough situational spots after last weeks’ huge gms; I like the dogs in both games. That’s a solid Va team and Pat Fitzgerald teams usually up their game starting in late September.