COLUMBUS — Let’s be honest, even natives of Nebraska probably would admit movie star and Nebraska are not three words most people would put together.
But a quick look at a list of famous Nebraskans leads to the discovery that Marlon Brando (two Academy Awards), Henry Fonda (one Academy Award) and Fred Astaire (one nomination for an Academy Award) all were born in Nebraska.
Former Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes liked to show movies where the good guys triumphed over the bad guys to his team the night before a game, and if there was some righteous violence included, all the better. Action plus adrenaline equals aggressiveness.
Chances are, even though they were bad guys vs. just as bad guys movies, Woody might have rolled out either The Godfather, with Brando, or The Godfather Part II, without Brando, to fire up the troops before a big game like Ohio State’s game against Nebraska tonight at Ohio Stadium (8 p.m., ABC-TV).
But if OSU was using any film for inspiration this week, it probably was of last year’s 34-27 loss to the Cornhuskers, not anything with Brando, Fonda or Astaire in it.
Ohio State jumped out to a 27-6 lead early in the third quarter at Nebraska with quarterback Braxton Miller playing his best game of 2011 up to that point.
The Buckeyes were still ahead 27-13 when Miller went out of the game with a sprained ankle with just under five minutes left in the third quarter.
A year later, Ohio State almost certainly feels like it owes Nebraska one for that game. And a year later, Ohio State is nearly as dependent on one player — Miller — as it was that night in Lincoln.
Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) could match the six wins it had last season halfway through this season with a win tonight. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) could make a statement that it might be the best team in the Big Ten this season if it wins.
OSU coach Urban Meyer has said his goal is for Ohio Stadium to be an inferno every game. If that is going to happen, Ohio State is going to have to keep its ignitor in chief, Miller, healthy.
Nebraska has the weapons to put some points on the scoreboard with quarterback Taylor Martinez and running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah.
The Cornhuskers’ defense has been shaky at times, most notably when it allowed 653 yards in a 36-30 loss at UCLA the second week of the season.
But that same defense held Wisconsin to 60 yards rushing in a come-from-behind 30-27 win over the Badgers last Saturday night. And Carlos Hyde, OSU’s only available experienced running back, is no Montee Ball.
That’s why even more of the pressure is on Miller’s shoulders this week, either to be sharp in the passing game, to run for more than 100 yards again, as he has twice this season, or to do both.
So, what’s going to happen tonight?
Ohio State will find enough weak spots in Nebraska’s defense to score three touchdowns or more if Miller plays four quarters. The Buckeyes’ defense will give up quite a few yards but not a lot of points. And the march toward a perfect season in a very imperfect Big Ten will continue for at least one more week.
The prediction: Ohio State 24, Nebraska 21.