Ohio State has suffered a few more injuries in 2017 than it has in recent years under Urban Meyer, putting the "next man up" mantra to the test.
The Buckeyes had to dive a little deeper into their depth chart against Nebraska, and the usual backups performed well in a night game setting on the road. For those performances, we start Stock Up/Stock Down with the players that stepped into bigger roles against the Cornhuskers.
K.J. Hill - Ohio State junior wide receiver
Hill has been listed as Ohio State's second H-back behind Parris Campbell for the entire season, but after Campbell left Saturday's game against Nebraska early in the first quarter with an injury, Hill earned additional playing time.
For the last two seasons, Hill has played an integral role in Ohio State's wide receiver rotation, but he became the focal point of the passing offense with Campbell out for the game. He caught a team-high seven passes for 80 yards and two scores with Campbell out, giving quarterback J.T. Barrett a reliable security blanket on multiple occasions.
I have maintained that Hill is more of a true wide receiver than a H-back, and I still do even after this performance. That said, I think he is a better overall receiver than Campbell because he is more consistent catching the football. If the coaches utilize him more in the passing game, I think Hill can consistently put up numbers like he did against Nebraska.
Demetrius Knox - Ohio State junior right guard
After watching Ohio State's loss to Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff semfinal, I seriously questioned whether or not Knox had the talent or competitive edge to play for the Buckeyes. Turns out, I might have been wrong.
While Nebraska doesn't have the talent that Clemson had in last season's Fiesta Bowl, Knox played well in his first career start, replacing the injured Branden Bowen at right guard. The fact that he was able to surpass the assumed leader for the job, Matthew Burrell, leads me to believe the opportunity to once again compete for a job served as a wake-up call for Knox. A bye week comes at the perfect time for Knox and the offensive line, giving them extra reps together before the showdown with Penn State looming. It is because of those extra snaps together that I am buying Knox's stock heading into the off week.
Ohio State Tight Ends
For the first time since 2013, two different Ohio State tight ends caught touchdown passes in a single game as both Marcus Baugh and Rashod Berry found the end zone against Nebraska.
We have been hearing for years about how the Buckeyes were going to work the tight ends into the passing game more, but had failed to see it take shape. Last season, Ohio State completed passes to just two tight ends (Baugh, A.J. Alexander) all season. Baugh and Alexander combined for 28 receptions in 2016 and just two scores.
The Buckeyes have already found the tight end 22 times in 2017 as Baugh, Berry and Luke Farrell have contributed in the passing game. Baugh and Berry each have two touchdowns on the season, already doubling the scoring output from the tight end position last season. If offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson keeps the tight ends involved, they could become a key weapon as the season rolls on.
When I got on the plane for my first trip to Nebraska, I was excited. Not only to check another Big Ten stadium off my list (only five left to go), but also to see a program with such amazing history. When I arrived at Memorial Stadium, I was blown away by the facilities that made up the belly of the impressive structure. I thought to myself, "This should be an easy place to recruit to."
Then, the game started.
It was tough to watch as Nebraska fans, who have enjoyed success at the highest level in college football, watched their beloved team get trounced by a fellow tradition-rich program. It should have been a marquee matchup in a weekend that was already filled with upsets and everything there is to love about college football. Instead, it felt like Ohio State had made a return trip to Rutgers. The game was over by halftime, and if it were a high school game, the running clock would have started with the opening snap of the third quarter.
Nebraska fans expect, and quite frankly deserve, better. There is talent in Lincoln. We saw plenty of it on display, especially when JD Spielman got the ball in his hands. The Cornhuskers have put together top-30 recruiting classes for the last three years, yet are in danger of missing out on a bowl game this season. Despite a less-than-ideal talent pool to pick from in its region, the Cornhuskers have proven they can recruit, but developing that talent has yet to happen. There is probably a coaching change coming in Lincoln, one that is warranted. Mike Riley has a reputation of being one of the nicest guys in the coaching profession, and I believe it. But most times, nice guys finish last, and Riley's squad is tied for last in total losses in the Big Ten through seven games this season.
This time two weeks ago, the Pac-12 looked like it could contend with the ACC, Big Ten or SEC as one of the nation's top conferences. USC, Washington and Washington State were all in a position to get into the playoff discussion. Those days aren't completely gone, but they are on life support.
USC looked lost when it lost to Washington State. Two weeks later, the Cougars were the ones stumbling around in the dark, as they were pummeled by unranked California on the road Friday night. To make matters worse, the Huskies – a playoff team from a year ago – managed just seven points in an embarrassing loss to Arizona State late Saturday night.
Up until this past weekend, it looked like the Apple Cup could decide the Pac-12. Now, the field is wide open, and the West Coast will need a team to go on a hot streak if it is to get a team into the playoff.
Week 8 Games
Have you seen the upcoming slate of college football games for this weekend? Woof.
Outside of Michigan playing Penn State and USC taking on Notre Dame, the eighth week of college football in 2017 is setting up to be a dumpster fire of a weekend. If you have errands to run Saturday afternoon, this is the weekend to do it. Paint the garage, mow the lawn, stare blankly at a wall wondering how the Cleveland Indians blew another huge lead in the playoffs (screaming internally) – you know, the usual stuff.
Or just take a week off. You've earned it. Or maybe you haven't, what do I know? Do whatever you have to do to get through the bye week because what follows it will surely have everyone on the edge of their seats when the Nittany Lions roll into town Oct. 28.