It’s Senior Day at Ohio Stadium on Saturday as the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) take on the Indiana Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4). There will be 18 seniors honored before their last game in the Horseshoe.
Last season, Indiana put the biggest scare of the year into the Buckeyes, coming from behind to almost pull the upset and end Ohio State’s undefeated season.
This year, the Hoosiers are looking to come to Columbus and end the nation’s longest winning streak – stopping the Buckeyes from setting the school-record for most consecutive wins – and also stop an 18-game losing streak to OSU.
When Indiana Has The Ball
When Kevin Wilson took over Indiana three years ago, he began to install an offense that would keep Indiana competitive in almost any game.
To say the Hoosiers move fast is an understatement. They are averaging less than 20 seconds between the end of a play and the snap of the ball.
Indiana is 16th nationally in total offense and 14th in scoring.
IU had scored 28-or-more points in 10-straight games until last week’s clash with Wisconsin where they only managed three. Like the Buckeyes, Indiana’s offense is rewriting the school offensive record book this season.
The passing game is where most of their damage is done. The Hoosiers average 306.9 passing yards per game and everything is done with pace. When the quarterback gets the ball, he gets the ball to the receiver quickly.
This season, IU has used a two-quarterback system. Unusually, Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson aren’t drastically different players.
Sudfeld has thrown for 2,281 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season, but Roberson has thrown nine touchdowns as well.
Roberson is the better runner, but is not an athlete like Braxton Miller or even a Kain Colter of Northwestern. He only has 190 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 52 carries this season, but is elusive.
Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn, Ted Bolser, and Duwyce Wilson all have over 1,000 receiving yards – the only team in Big Ten history to have five 1,000-yard pass catchers on one team. All but Wilson also have over 100 career receptions.
Bosler is also only four receptions away from setting the school record for catches by a tight end.
The Buckeyes will be in nickel for most of the game in order to defend the many threats IU can throw at them. Bradley Roby, Doran Grant, Tyvis Powell, Armani Reeves, and possibly others will be called upon to keep track of the plethora of options.
The best way to slow Indiana down is to get to their quarterback. Joey Bosa, who had three sacks against Illinois, should be healthy on Saturday. Bosa, along with Noah Spence, Michael Bennett and others should cause problems for a Hoosier offensive line that has been solid this year.
IU has used six different starting lineups on the offensive line but has been successful, allowing just 14 sacks. The Buckeyes have sacked the quarterback 32 times this year so something will have to give.
The defense should get a boost with the return of linebackers Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, who both missed last week’s game with injuries. Being in nickel means OSU will usually have two or fewer linebackers on the field, but their return will at least provide more depth.
Indiana doesn’t run the ball frequently, but they do tend to get big plays. Sophomore Tevin Coleman is tied for first in the nation with number of runs of 50 yards or longer.
Coleman missed last week’s game against the Badgers with a sprained ankle and is listed as questionable for Saturday. Behind him is fifth-year senior Stephen Houston. On the year he has 597 yards and three touchdowns compared to Coleman’s 958 and 12 scores.
If Coleman is out, it means the Hoosiers will rely even more on their passing attack. This creates another challenge for the Buckeyes, who failed to slow down Illinois’ offense through the air last week.
Kicker Mitch Ewald is perfect on the year with his kicks with a long field goal of 50 yards.
Sophomore Erich Toth is averaging 40.2 yards per punt with a long of 57 this year.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
The Buckeyes’ offense may not move as fast as Indiana’s but it is just as explosive.
Per game, OSU scores more points and gains more yards than the Hoosiers. The difference between the teams lies in their defenses.
Ohio State is in the top half of the conference in all of the main defensive categories, while IU is at the bottom.
This season, the Scarlet and Gray have been able to move the ball at will and there’s no reason to think any different this week.
Braxton Miller reminded everyone that he can still run last week with 184 rushing yards and one touchdown against the Illini. Miller should have time in the pocket, as this fairly young defensive line goes up against the very experience offensive line – 131 combined starts.
These four seniors will want to have a good last game blocking in the ‘Shoe, both for Miller and their fellow senior Carlos Hyde.
Hyde is 53 yards away from becoming Urban Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back, something Meyer, Hyde, and the offensive line have all called a goal.
Considering Indiana has given up 251 rushing yards per game and over 550 yards on the ground to Wisconsin, Hyde may reach 1,000 before the first quarter is over.
Meyer also said this week he hopes to have a healthy Jordan Hall back this week. The fifth-year senior would love to be on the field in his last home game and Meyer believed he could give depth at running back and receiver.
The wideouts should see a lot of action, as the Hoosiers give up over 280 yards through the air per game. Corey “Philly” Brown is also closing out his career in Ohio Stadium and it wouldn’t be surprising to see OSU try to improve on his 48 catches, 596 yards, and nine touchdowns.
Junior cornerback Tim Bennett leads the country in passes defended and pass breakups, while leading the team in tackles with senior safety Greg Heban is second.
Meyer said it was likely both tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett would be more involved in the passing game this week. This may mean that the Buckeyes saw something on film that they can expose.
This will also be Senior Day for Kenny Guiton. Everyone in attendance will want him to get a shot and it is likely he enters the game at points.
Last week was not a good day for OSU’s special teams. Drew Basil missed his first field goal and extra point of the season, while Cameron Johnston and the punt coverage unit allowed a return for a touchdown.
How It Will End Up
Like last year’s contest, this game should have a lot of scoring.
Ohio State is hoping their pass defense has actually gotten better and they can contain Indiana to some degree.
The Hoosiers must know coming in that they will have to outscore the Buckeyes in order to get a surprise victory. Ohio State gave up its most points of the season – 35 – to Illinois last weekend and IU will hope to do some of the same things.
Returning home will help the Buckeyes and last week’s semi-scare should have refocused them. They will want to send their seniors out with a bang and make sure they are all able to get some playing time.
IU knows how to do one thing well and that’s score. OSU will slow them down, but they won’t stop them. Sadly for those from Bloomington, Indiana won’t be able to slow Ohio State down.
Ohio State 69 Indiana 20