Buckeyes Take on Hoosier to Open Big Ten Play

Can the Buckeyes' defense stop Jordan Howard? - Photo:

Buckeyes Will Have Their Hands Full Against Upstart Hoosiers

The Buckeyes finally put together a solid four quarter effort last week against Western Michigan. Or, more accurately, at the most solid performance we've seen out of them all year. So while the final score of 38-12 might seem like a solid victory, it wasn't without it's flaws.

I'm looking at you Cardale. That intentional grounding call to end the fist half was awful. Your backwards pass while attempting to avoid a sack wasn't much better. Oh, and don't think you're getting off easy here defensive front seven. You know what you did, or rather, you know what you DIDN'T do.

While the defense of the Buckeyes has been one of the few standout points for the Buckeyes so far this season, last week's effort against the Broncos was anything but encouraging. While they only surrendered 12 points on the day, they were repeatedly bailed out by poor decisions by quarterback Zach Terrell and missed kicks by Andrew Halderman, who missed two field goals and his lone extra point attempt.

Ezekiel Elliot could run wild
Photo: Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY
The Buckeye defense gave up rushing yards in big, ugly, unattractive chunks to the duo of Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin to the tune of 161 yards on 35 carries. Add in an additional 11 yards from LeVante Bellamy and that equates to 172 yards on 37 carries for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Let's say 5 for convenience.

Why is this important to point out? Couldn't we just attribute it to one bad day after three straight really good ones? Yes and no. While it's easy to dismiss last week's defensive performance, it immediately becomes a bit of an issue when you consider they take on Indiana this week. You know, the team that boasts the leading rusher in the nation and the nation's best rushing attack.

If you recall last season's near nightmare against the Hoosiers, you'll recall that Tevin Coleman lit the Buckeyes up on the way to 228 yards on only 27 carries. If not for the second half heroics of Jalin Marshall and his touchdown breakout, Coleman may very well have guided the Hoosiers to victory and completely derailed the Buckeyes' championship season.

This season , the Hoosiers will line up on offense with Jordan Howard in the backfield. So far thorough four games, all Howard has managed to do is rush for 675 yards on 111 carries. Doing the math, that's a gaudy 6.1 yards per carry and 169 yards per game. Howard is a bruiser of a running back, taking hits head on while often times being the one to deliver the knockout blow.

So the Buckeye's defense is going to have it's hands full today, to say the least. If they can't commit to filling their proper gaps, something several players were guilty of against Western Michigan with Raekwon McMillian being the most most egregious offender, Howard could very well march the Hoosiers up and down the field all day long.

Given what we've seen so far out of the Hoosiers offensively, averaging well over 30 points per game in 2015, Cardale Jones and the Buckeye offense may have to carry the burden today if the defense has another disjointed effort.

We saw last week that a vertical passing game is needed in order for the offense to resemble its late 2014 self. Jones hit several receivers deep down the field, and unfortunately missed several others, which helped open everything else up. With a full commitment to Jones and the threat of J.T. Barrett no longer lurking in the shadows... at least for now... it was clear that the offense was able to be more effective.

That might also benefit the Buckeyes today against the Hoosiers. While Indiana has scored a boat load of points on their way to going 4-0, they have also a nearly equal amount - 47, 22, 35, an 24. Clearly the Hoosier defense is not up to the same level as their offense and that may very well be their downfall against the Buckeyes. Ohio State has play makers all over the field and even more sitting on the bench. Indiana, as currently constructed, just does not have enough talent on the defensive side of the ball to handle that.

So what does this all mean? It means that this game today has the potential to be a shootout. Big plays, high scoring, and high stress. It also means that this game has legitimate upset potential. The Buckeyes could lose to the Hoosiers. Do I think this is going to happen? No. I believe the Buckeyes will take care of their business today. But do I think it COULD happen? If the right set of circumstances play out it definitely could. 
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