Image courtesy of IU Athletics
The Buckeyes (6-0) will leave via charter bus Friday to travel to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers (2-3). Ohio State is one of four teams to stand at 6-0 in the land of college football. As their season’s prospects continue to rise, so does their ranking—they’re currently ranked 8th in the AP Poll. They barreled over the Cornhuskers and edged out Michigan State, so it will now be up to the Hoosiers to take down Urban Meyer’s squad. Indiana suffered a tough loss to Michigan State—losing a 17-0 lead with an eventual 31-27 defeat in favor of the Spartans. The game showed some extremely encouraging aspects for the Hoosiers, it just came down to, yet again, not playing all sixty minutes. The Buckeyes have defeated the Hoosiers 16 consecutive times, but Wilson is confident the tables have turned. Are you?
The Opponent: Ohio State
Bombarded by NCAA sanctions, not many knew what to expect for Urban Meyer’s 1st season in Columbus. It’s safe to say he’s satisfying one of the most loyal fan bases in America. They nearly doubled the score of a top-25 team last week, not to mention a B1G opponent, and remain undefeated, one of only four teams to stand at 6-0.
Ohio State’s offense revolves around their rushing attack. Continuing the trend under Urban Meyer, he decided to go with Braxton Miller, a running quarterback, under center. Miller has 763 yards on the ground thus far, averaging 7.2 yards for each of those carries. He also has a total of eight rushing touchdowns. Combine that with junior running back Carlos Hyde – a Florida native who has barely less than 300 yards this game, 4.7 per carry, and 6 touchdowns – and a dangerous rushing attack is what you have. There’s a reason the Buckeyes are 10th in the nation in rushing yards and two of them are listed above.
The defense has been impressive under Meyer’s watch, but not perfect. They’ll come into Memorial Stadium giving up 20.5 points per game—good for 35th in the country. The Buckeyes surrender just around 121 yards on the ground and 265 in the air—definitely not mediocre, yet can be exposed by a formidable offense. To be honest, Ohio State has been consistent in one manner on defense—giving up the other teams’ average. Let me explain with an example. Nebraska averages 215.3 passing yards per game, over 200 rushing yards per game, and 33 points per game. Last week against Nebraska, OSU gave up 214 yards per game, surrendered over 200 yards on the ground, and the Cornhuskers put up 28 points—just 5 shy of their average. Buckeyes’ defense hasn’t made the big stops, yet because of the explosive offense they can afford to play “bend don’t break” defense and they’ve done just that.
X-Factor: C.J. Barnett
C.J. Barnett will be returning from his injury this weekend against the Hoosiers. Barnett suffered a high ankle sprain four weeks ago that kept him out of the past three games. The team suffered a tough loss last weekend—starting linebacker Etienne Sabino will be out for several weeks. But against the spread offense which Indiana generally runs, OSU will frequently find themselves in nickel packages which emphasizes the use of defensive backs, hence my decision to make one of them the x-factor.
Indiana’s passing offense has been stellar this season. Barnett is “ninety percent” according to teammate and fellow safety Christian Bryant. Meyer decided to take it up a notch. “He’s full speed, he’s playing,” coach Urban Meyer said after practice yesterday. Well, against the Hoosiers’ passing offense Barnett will have to be better than ninety percent come Saturday night. He’ll have to, or else that already vulnerable defense can be exploited some more.
“Close but no cigar.” “Almost doesn’t count, except in horseshoes.” Are there any other relevant quotes? It seems those two have best summed up Indiana’s season as they fell to 2-3 after a four-point loss to the Spartans last weekend—a tragic one to say the least. Quick recap: they lost on a game-winning field goal to Ball State, had an amazing second half comeback against Northwestern come up short, and got out to an early lead against Michigan State but lost it in the 4th quarter. If only we could combine the second half of Northwestern and the first half of Michigan State and coach Kevin Wilson could’ve achieved his first B1G win as IU head coach.
Coach Wilson emphasizes there are no moral victories. However, there were various bright spots shown last weekend against a talented team. Michigan State’s opponents entered last weekend averaging 12.8 points, 167.2 passing yards and 263.4 total yards per game. Indiana scored 27 points, threw for 282 yards and totaled 317 yards. The Spartans allowed 64 combined points to their first five opponents. The Hoosier defense held MSU to 120 rushing yards and a 2.9 average per carry. Michigan State entered the game averaging 147.8 yards rushing per game and 4.0 yards per carry. With 27 points in the first half and 29 points in the second half at Northwestern the previous weekend, Indiana scored 27 or more in consecutive halves for the first time since scoring 30 and 28 in the first and second halves, respectively, against Missouri in 1990.
I’m not sure who will be starting this weekend’s game—haven’t spoken with Cameron Coffman about whether he or Nate Sudfeld will begin the game under center. I’d assume, and hope, it would be Coffman. He performed well last weekend, particularly in the first half, and against an impressive OSU team I think the Hoosiers need some experience out there. In addition, I’m not a fan of constantly having the starting quarterback’s job in jeopardy. Stick with Cam and prove you have some confidence in him. Saying in your post-game press conference that you were thinking of pulling Cam won’t help anything, Coach Wilson!
In addition, I did see starting cornerback Kenny Mullen in a walking boot, though I’m not sure the status of his injury. He recorded 8 solo tackles last game, and wants to be out there more than anyone come Saturday. He told me recently about how last year’s game vs. OSU was one of the poorest he’s played. Against the duo of Corey Brown and Devin Smith, having a healthy and motivated Mullen would certainly help. Hoosiers will have their hands full on defense against the best offense in the B1G and one of the more prominent ones in the nation.
X-Factor: Run defense
For the second straight week I’m choosing the Hoosiers’ run defense as the x-factor. Last weekend they proved to defy the odds—surrendering only 120 yards to a powerful Michigan State running attack (mainly Le’Veon Bell). The run defense showed up last weekend, particularly linebackers Flo Hardin and David Cooper, and defensive tackle Adam Replogle. All three men wrapped up eight tackles a piece, and that gave their team a chance to win.
This weekend, they’ll deal with OSU’s attack which stems from quarterback Braxton Miller. The rushing game for the Buckeyes racks up 248.7 yards per game, an extraordinary statistic. Their passing attack doesn’t pose much of a threat (ranking 108th in passing yards) and I’ve already explained how their defense is vulnerable. Therefore, it’s Ohio State’s rushing attack that will catch all twenty-two eyes from the Hoosiers on the field. And it’s that same rushing attack that the Hoosiers will have to prevent from exploding if they hope to end the losing streak against the Buckeyes.
Last week was the first week I went against Indiana, and I seemed to make the wise choice. The Hoosiers did put up more points than I expected, but my prediction of the amount MSU will score was on the money. That brings me to 2-2 on the season with my picks. OSU is coming in hot and IU can’t seem to finish a complete game. I think they have too much talent for Indiana’s defense to handle. Indiana announced they’re opening more parking due to an expected high level of attendance. I’m sorry to say it, but all those Hoosiers fans in attendance are going to leave a bit sad.
41-17 Ohio State