When people looked at Ohio State’s schedule before the season started, a number of games jumped off the page as potential big-time matchups.
There was the non-conference showdown in September at Oklahoma. Shortly after that, the Buckeyes had back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Penn State — two of college football’s most hostile venues. Then, of course, the two final games of the year: a road game at Michigan State and the regular-season finale against archrival Michigan.
Nobody really thought the Nov. 5 matchup with Nebraska would be viewed in that same light.
As things turn out, it’s quite the opposite now that the game against the Cornhuskers is here. Nebraska comes to Columbus at 7-1 and the No. 9-ranked team in the country. Ohio State, also 7-1, is ranked sixth.
“Really impressed with our conference, the quality of play, players and teams we’re playing,” Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said Monday during his weekly press conference. “These guys are really good.”
The Huskers are coming off their first loss of the season as they were upended 23-17 at Wisconsin in overtime. But Nebraska started the season with seven-straight victories and they certainly captured Ohio State’s attention.
“A great team coming in in Nebraska,” Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “I think it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere and it’s going to be exciting for our fans.”
“It’s two top-10 teams battling,” linebacker Chris Worley added.
Neither Nebraska nor Ohio State can afford a loss at this point. The Buckeyes need to win out to have a chance to make the Big Ten championship game without receiving any help and the Cornhuskers essentially are in the same situation coming off that loss to the Badgers.
“Even though the season is not finished right now, this is one of those games where it can define your season,” Worley said. “We’ve been in a lot of games so far this year, but at the same time, we have one objective and that’s to go win the game.
“We take it one game at a time so we have to go beat Nebraska.”
Ohio State–Nebraska certainly wasn't viewed by most as a big-time matchup when this season began. It is now, and that's all that really matters.
“A top-10 team,” Meyer said. “They play like it. They look like it. And that’s the only concern.”