- Austin Ward, College Football
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Nebraska at Ohio State
Oct. 6, at Ohio Stadium (8 p.m. on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2)
About the Huskers
2011 record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)
Ohio State all-time against Nebraska: Buckeyes lead series 2-1
Last year: Nebraska took the first conference battle between the two storied programs, pulling out a 34-27 win at home in Lincoln.
Top returners: WR Kenny Bell, WR Quincy Enunwa, OL Spencer Long, TE Ben Cotton, QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, DE Jason Ankrah, DE Cameron Meredith, DT Baker Steinkuhler, LB Will Compton, CB Andrew Green, DB Daimion Stafford
2011 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)
Rushing: Burkhead* (1,406 yards, 15 touchdowns)
Passing: Martinez* (2,089 yards, 13 touchdowns, 8 interceptions)
Receiving: Bell* (32 receptions, 461 yards, 3 touchdowns)
Tackles: David (133)
Sacks: David (5.5)
Interceptions: David and Cassidy (2)
What they're saying: "Our expectations are high around here. We want to win championships around here, a Big Ten championship. I always feel if you take care of that, you're going to at least be in the conversation for a national championship. But at the end of the day, I don't get caught up in all of that. Having those kinds of expectations, that's what you want." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini to ESPN.com in April
Three things to watch
1. Second chance: Braxton Miller helped build the Buckeyes a substantial lead and had them seemingly on the brink of an impressive road win to help welcome Nebraska to the Big Ten -- until an injured ankle forced him to the sideline in the third quarter. Everything unraveled down the stretch as the Huskers rallied and escaped at home, but this time Ohio State will be on familiar turf. And it has already seen what it can do to Nebraska's defense when Miller is healthy.
2. New crew: The Huskers have plenty of talented veterans returning on defense. What they don't have is the one guy who handled pretty much everything for that unit a season ago. Lavonte David led Nebraska in all three major statistics for individuals, and the linebacker won't be easy to replace. Senior middle linebacker Will Compton has company, but the focus figures to be on him to take the baton for the Blackshirts.
3. Round two: There's no such thing as easing into league play for Urban Meyer in his first tour around the Big Ten. After opening on the road with Michigan State, the Buckeyes will follow that up by playing host to another squad with championship aspirations when the Huskers come calling. It's an early two-week barometer of the progress for a new coaching staff, and also a chance to influence a title race Ohio State can't technically win.
Ohio State's first Big Ten home game of 2012 will be against Nebraska, another team with title aspirations.