Ohio State University comes rolling into a town a week after Indiana played a Jekyll and Hyde act on Michigan State and IU fans. After raising hopes exponentially in the first half with what could be considered Indiana's most impressive half of football in a decade, they gave us what could have been their worst. Now we're left to look at the disaster and try and decipher what the pieces mean.
Ohio State comes to town as the best team in the Big Ten and likely the only one that the conference can really get behind as its shining beacon of hope during such a terrible conference year. Unfortunately for Big ten loyalists and Buckeye fans they're also on probation from going on to be anything more than a good football team that no one will remember. So the best thing IU could do is to lessen the pain of a bowl ban is to make their season not so special. But it is going to take more than just trash talking to pull that off.
First off the Hoosier defense. IU has to play much like they did in the first half of the Michigan State game to even have a real shot at this. Ohio State likely isn't going to be a team that gifts the ball over a couple times so that the Hoosiers can keep it close. They're going to have to earn it. This will be IU's fifth vaunted rushing offense they have had to compete with in six games. Indiana State had Shakir Bell, Ball State had Edwards and Banks, Northwestern Kain Colter and Michigan State La'Veon Bell. The IU defense performed pretty well against all of those but Kain Colter which is what has me worried about Ohio State.
Ohio State throws us another dual threat option type quarterback and it does not bode well for the Hoosiers. They do a pretty solid job of fighting off traditional running games for a bottom of the conference team, but the non-traditional option/wildcat run game gashed us for 700 yards two weeks ago. We're just going to have to hope IU learned some lessons in that game. Buckeye QB Braxton Miller comes into the game with only 30 less rushing attempts than passing attempts on the season. Merely one less rushing TD than passing and only 300 more passing yards. Miller is going to run and he's going to run a lot. IU has to do something to try and stop that. I don't expect them to accomplish that.
I think it is pretty fair to say Ohio State is going to run for 250+ yards on Saturday. The only way they don't is if OSU realizes early that they can pick on the defensive backs with some regularity if they choose to do so. Ohio State averages over 400 yards of offense on the year against some pretty good competition. I just don't think the Hoosiers defense can stand up and face what Ohio State has to offer. But if IU wants to win they're going to have to keep the Buckeye offense to under 400 yards and 35 points against.
Offensively, the Hoosiers MUST play a complete 60 minutes. They remind me so much of IU's 2010 basketball team it is scary. For all three losses so far you can point to the IU offense just disappearing for several drives. In two of those games the dry spells by the offense directly cost us the game. Against Ball State, IU wins if the offense shows up for the third quarter. Against Michigan State the second half. Heck even against Northwestern if IU comes out in the first the way they did in the second half we'd be talking a whole different ballgame. Indiana has to find a full 60 minutes on this team. Part of that is on the players but a lot of that is on the coaches. I don't know if they just don't think the guys are experienced enough to handle wholesale scheme changes but something has to give.
If IU wants to stay in this game it has to be a hard consistent 60 minutes. They're going to have to put up at least 400 yards of their own offense and hang 30 points on the board. Against this Ohio State defense it is possible. They aren't as intimidating as the Michigan State defense that IU frustrated into 100 yards worth of personal fouls last week. Ohio State gives up an average of 5 more points a game than Michigan State and Indiana needs to take advantage of that. 30 points isn't out of the question. If they can get there and the IU defense shows resistance this game won't be a blow out. Hell it may be even close enough to point to this game next week and say if only... I don't think it happens, but then again I never in a million years saw the first half of last Saturday coming either.