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October 8, 2011

Ohio State keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

Nebraska faces their first bit of adversity this season tonight when they take on Ohio State in Lincoln. This will be the Buckeyes first ever trip to Memorial Stadium and NU's first ever Big Ten Conference home game.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are the keys to victory over Ohio State, along with our HuskerOnline.com staff and guest predictions for week six.

NU enters tonight's match-up as an 11 point favorite over OSU, after the Buckeyes dropped a disappointing game against Michigan State last Saturday.

NU can't afford a flat start

When I think about tonight's game with Ohio State, it's hard for me not to go back to last year's home game with Texas.

There was so much hype for that game, just like this week. NU came out flat that day against the Longhorns and it affected the entire tone of that game. The Huskers cannot afford to do that against the Buckeyes.

Like Texas last year, the Buckeyes are extremely fragile after suffering two early season losses. If Nebraska can strike first, that will lay a damaging blow to this reeling Ohio State squad.

Give the ball to No. 22

This one is pretty simple. Running back Rex Burkhead needs to get the football early and often in this game. Bukhead needs to be used out of the Wildcat. Tim Beck has to find ways to get him involved and take pressure off Taylor Martinez.

I think Beck also has to understand that with Ohio State's struggling offense it's perfectly fine to concede some third-and-longs to punt the ball away to OSU. Field position will be absolutely huge in today's game. If the Huskers can force Braxton Miller to drive the field, they have a great chance of winning this football game.

Limit OSU's punt and kick returns

Ohio State may have one of the nation's worst offenses, but the Buckeyes do have arguably the best collective group of special teams units the Huskers will see this season.

You have to think Buckeye head coach Luke Fickell is going to go after a punt or try to set something up in the return game for Jordan Hall.

Coming into today's game Hall is one of the most dynamic punt returners in the country and if they can make a play or two on special teams that will greatly help their chances to stay with Nebraska.

Keep Martinez in favorable situations

As long as Martinez can keep a defense off balance he is extremely dangerous. You have to think the Buckeyes are going to load the box and force Martinez to throw.

It will be important for Beck to come up with a plan to weather any early storm the Buckeyes aggressive attack up front might present.

If the Buckeyes can force the Huskers into second and third and long situations, it's going to be another hold your breath kind of day for Martinez and this offense.

Play with emotion

All week we've heard how this team has the back of Martinez and how they've rallied around one another.

I expect to see an emotional team take the field tonight and I expect Memorial Stadium to be on emotional edge. Bo Pelini called out the fans this week and told the Journal Star the "same people that sit on their hands for an entire game are the same people ripping Taylor Martinez." Ron Brown said people that rip NU's players through social media are "note true Husker fans."

How will Memorial Stadium respond to that? How will Martinez respond to the criticism he's received all week? How the Huskers control their emotion will ultimately be one of the biggest keys to this football game.

Callahan's weekly predictions

What scares you about this game is no matter what people say Ohio State has talent and probably the best defense and special teams NU has seen all year. I think this will be a battle. Two desperate teams fighting for a much needed win. In the end, the home crowd helps NU prevail, but I like OSU against the points as an 11 point underdog.

Nebraska 19 Ohio State 10
Iowa 23 Penn State 17
Oklahoma 37 Texas 23

Season Record: 9-6 overall; 7-8 vs. points

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