Behind one of the top offensive lines in the Big Ten, and arguably the country, Jordan Howard has been the most successful running back in the FBS.
Strong performances through the Hoosiers’ 4-0 start and undefeated nonconference play put him on top as the nation’s leading rusher with 675 yards, even as he shares the backfield workload with fellow running back Devine Redding.
The backfield success will be put to the test this weekend in a matchup against Ohio State, which boasts the sixth-best total defense in the nation, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“I’m very excited,” Howard said. “They have a physical defense and they get downfield. They’re going to try to take everything away.”
Last week’s game against Wake Forest gave Howard a good idea of what to expect against Ohio State.
The Demon Deacons entered last Saturday’s game with the Hoosiers ranked ninth in the country in total defense and 39th against the run. Ohio State will arrive in Bloomington ranked in the top 50 of the latter category at 36th.
Against Western Michigan last week, the Buckeyes allowed 169 rushing yards total, which means there could be plenty of opportunities for both Howard and Redding, who so far have rushed for a combined 912 yards and averaged collectively 5.2 yards per carry. Howard alone had 168 yards on the ground against Wake Forest in Week 3.
That style of a 1-2 punch between the two running backs has been critical to Indiana’s offensive success to this point in the season.
“I feel like it helps the offense a lot,” Redding said. “We just come in, we do our part… really, we just love to do us and go out and play our part.”
“I think (running backs) coach (Deland) McCullough has a great knack of how to prepare them and practice them and have them go hard, but he doesn't wear them out,” Wilson added when asked about the style. “I think he does a tremendous job of preparing his kids during the week to give them a chance to play really, really good for us.”
This Saturday, both Howard and Redding have the opportunity to continue to do damage to the opposing defense.
It will also be an opportunity for Howard to accomplish something no running back has done against Ohio State this season – rush for over 100 yards. Western Michigan running back Jamauri Bogan has been the closest so far after he ran for 93 yards on 23 carries last week.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but everybody welcomes a challenge,” Howard said. “We’re just going to have to go out there and prove that we can still run the ball against anybody.”