Nebraska football’s upcoming opponent, Ohio State, has sat atop the Big Ten for a few years now.
The Buckeyes won their fourth straight conference championship last year, their second under head coach Ryan Day. On top of that, they’re routinely at or near the top of the conference in recruiting every year. Ohio State tied with Alabama for the most selections from their schools in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Nebraska players, however, aren’t sold on there being much of a talent difference.
“It’s not a big gap, we got the same players bro,” Cam Taylor-Britt said Monday. “We got Samori [Touré], they got Chris Olave, we got Omar Manning, they got Garrett Wilson. It’s hand-in-hand, we just have to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands and let them work.”
The Huskers have seldom come close to beating Ohio State. In head coach Scott Frost’s first year, a 2-6 Husker team did lead at halftime, but ended up being outscored by the Buckeyes 20-10 in the second half to lose 36-31. The last two years, Nebraska’s lost by over 30 points.
Multiple starters on the team, such as Taylor-Britt, have been with the Huskers for all three losses to Ohio State under Frost. Defensive lineman Ben Stille is another one of those, and he echoed the cornerback’s comments.
“Across Division I football, I don’t think the talent gap is very big,” he said. “I think it’s a lot smaller than it was years ago, so you got to come play every week.”
Adrian Martinez has been the starting quarterback in each loss, with mixed statistical results. His best performance against the Buckeyes came in 2018, when he had 338 total yards, three touchdowns and one turnover.
In the two matchups since, he’s combined for 318 yards, one touchdown and four turnovers. The most notable struggle came in 2019, when Martinez threw three first-half interceptions.
The quarterback is now coming off of another game in which he threw three picks in a half, although in a different situation. He also expressed confidence in the team’s current talent, going as far to say the gap has shrunk since his first year.
“I would say it’s changed, we have a lot of talent right now and guys that I’m confident in and we’re confident in ourselves,” Martinez said. “I don’t view it as a talent thing for us. It’s got to be execution. We have to go out there and be sharp. That’s what the best teams do.”
After Nebraska’s loss to Purdue on Saturday, Frost said the team is good, but “not a great team, talent-wise.” His comments on Monday didn’t fully reiterate that, but he had praise for the Buckeyes’ talent and what they’ve accomplished so far this season.
“(Ohio State) is a really talented team that is hitting its stride,” Frost said.
As far as how his own team compares, Frost would rather have that be answered via results on the field.
“We’ll find out on Saturday. It’s a different team every year with them. It’s a different team every year with us,” Frost said. “There’s no question we’re infinitely more talented than we were year one and year two here. I haven’t seen them other than on tape yet. But I know they’re always gonna have a ton of talent and really good players. So we have to see how we match up.”
The Buckeyes aren’t the only talented team the Huskers will play in the final three weeks. After Ohio State, Nebraska will take on Wisconsin on the road and No. 19 Iowa at home. The Badgers are coming off of a win against the Hawkeyes, are 5-3 and have beat the Huskers every year of Frost’s tenure.
Iowa has done the same, and still sit at 6-2 despite two straight double-digit losses. Taylor-Britt said he’s excited for the challenge that awaits to end the year.
“It’s great teams and just to go out there and get that feeling,” he said. “You get to play football. Like I said, we’ve been doing this so long. Why not get out there and play against the best of the best.”