The last two weeks for Buckeyes fans have been pretty exciting. Two games against ranked teams, and two more wins for Ohio State.
After pretty much red-lining last week in a 63-38 win over Nebraska, the excitement meter is barely registering now, with a game at Indiana. The Hoosiers are 2-3, and I could try and spell out reasons why this could be a trap game, but I won’t waste either of our time. ‘
Frankly, the only argument for interest on Saturday would be the fact that OSU has seemingly played to the level of its competition most of the season. The Bucks weren’t at their best against lesser opponents Central Florida and specifically, UAB.
Outside of the Bill Mallory era (1984-96) in Bloomington, there hasn’t been much to brag about. The former OSU assistant coach led the Hoosiers to a 69-77-3 record, and six bowl appearances. Since 1968, IU has had only 10 winning seasons.
The Hoosiers have just two Big Ten titles in football, unofficially fewer than any school in the league except Nebraska (2 of Penn State’s 3 titles have been vacated) with the most recent coming in 1967. Urban Meyer was three years old at the time. Ohio State has won 22 conference crowns (2010 vacated) since then.
The series between schools hasn’t been close, either. All-time, OSU leads 67-12-5, and 24-2-1 in Bloomington. The Buckeyes have won 17 straight (included the 2010 vacated win), dating back to a tie in 1990. Including that stalemate, and IU victories in 1986-87, The Bucks are 48-2-2 against their Western neighbors since 1952.
The Lead Up
The 2012 Hoosiers will present some challenges, at least on offense, but the biggest obstacle will be for the Buckeyes to avoid a let-down after the huge win over the Cornhuskers.
Three factors should help to mitigate that; first, OSU fans have traditionally packed Memorial Stadium, and we should expect that again. Secondly, playing at night will help the Buckeyes “get up” for the contest. Finally, Indiana was up 17 in the first quarter last week against Michigan State, and even took a 10 point lead into the fourth before bowing out, 31-27.
This begins a stretch of four straight games in which Ohio State will likely be favorites (at Indiana, Purdue, at Penn State, Illinois). Those four opponents have a combined record of 11-11. With big games against Wisconsin and Michigan on the back-end of the schedule, OSU cannot take any of these next four lightly.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
At this point, it’s fair to call the Buckeyes’ offense explosive. In the opening win over Miami, OSU scored 56 points, all coming in the last three quarters. Meanwhile, last week, 56 of the 63 came after the first quarter.
Already, they’ve had 15 drives of 70 or more yards, after just nine of those in 2011. In the 13-game campaign in 2010, OSU had 20 yards of that length or longer.
It’s over-stating the obvious, but the reason for that explosiveness wears number 5. Braxton Miller is turning into one of the most dangerous players on offense in college football.
While the passing game is still a long, long way from where Urban Meyer & Tom Herman want it, what makes this offense so dangerous to me, is the development of the power rushing game. Both Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith are turning into confident, physical runners, and that’s bad news for a defense that ranks 99th in the country against the run. That compounded even more by a quarterback that is 11th in the country in rushing yards per game. As a unit, the Buckeyes are 10th (248.67 YPG) in the NCAA in rushing offense.
Early on, I think we’ll try to see Ohio State go through the air, and get some confidence in the passing game. Devin Smith didn’t catch a pass against Nebraska, so you know he’ll be motivated to make some plays. Corey Brown has become a reliable pass-catching target, and the tight ends (Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett) were big contributors a week ago.
If there is success to be had through the air, that saves some wear and tear on Miller. Another benefit would be to loosen up the running lanes, and to turn Hyde and Smith loose, which would be the second half plan.
When Indiana Has the Ball
The Hoosiers are missing injured quarterback Tre Roberson, who was simply fantastic last season in Ohio Stadium, in the 34-20 loss to the Buckeyes. He’s out for the year, and the Hoosiers are trying to settle between Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld under center.
Head coach Kevin Wilson has long favored a spread passing attack, and Indiana is 19th in the country in passing offense (304.8 YPG) and 26th in total offense (472.4 YPG). I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention this season, but these are areas where the OSU defense has struggled at times (pass defense is 99th in FBS).
The Hoosiers like short passes, using the entire width of the field. They killed Michigan State with that early, until the Spartans adjusted. One critical thing for the OSU secondary will be to keep the plays in front of them. Dink and dunk passes might work for a few first downs, but it’s not always easy to punch it into the end zone that way.
Indiana hasn’t had trouble scoring points, with 24 the fewest in the first five games.
There is hardly any reason to think that Indiana can beat Ohio State. But that’s why they call them upsets, right?
Once again, I think we’ll see plenty of scoring in this game. I don’t think Indiana will be able to slow down the Buckeye offense much, while the OSU defense will do enough to win.
This could be a big week for the running backs. I see a lot of rushing yards…well, a lot of yards period.
I’ll go with a score of 52-24 in favor of Ohio State.
The coverage on 10TV and www.10tv.com/BuckeyeBlitz
will continue all weekend long. Dom Tiberi will be traveling to Bloomington and have reports before and after the game.
Saturday, we’ll post game pictures and analysis on our Buckeye Blitz web page, and wrap-up the game with our new “Gameday” coverage at 7pm and 11pm, as well as Wall to Wall Sports at 11:35pm.