Giving Blake Powers time to throw - While the Hoosier front five has been occasionally taken to task for its inability to open up holes for the Hoosier ground game, they've done a solid job of providing protection for Powers. That group will be presented with its biggest challenge to date when the Buckeyes come to town.
Ohio State's pressure comes courtesy its front four and a propensity to blitz from anywhere and at anytime. That pressure can come from just about anywhere –linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter are the most frequent culprits, although strong safety Donte Whittner (three sacks) is another player who Coach Jim Tressel won't hesitate to send after Powers.
Indiana's spread formation doesn't allow the "luxury" of having a fullback in the backfield to help pick up blitzers. IU also likes to get its tailbacks involved in the passing game as well, meaning the front five will be responsible for seeing where the blitz is coming from and making the necessary adjustments to pick everyone up.
Don't be surprised to see the Hoosiers working out of their two tight end set frequently Saturday. That formation will not only provide additional protection, but also will leave the Buckeyes guessing as to whether Matt O'Neal or Chris Rudanovic will be a target for Powers, and if they will be staying back to provide protection. Chris Taylor and Yamar Washington might also be kept in the backfield more often than they've been in recent weeks, particularly early on.
If Powers has time to throw, Indiana can have success through the air. The Buckeyes have given up 250 yards passing in three of their six games this season, including 340 a week ago to Michigan State's Drew Stanton. Opponents have completed better than 60 percent of their passes against OSU, and the Buckeyes have only four interceptions in six games – the second-fewest in the Big Ten. Ohio State will also be without starting cornerback Tyler Everett, who went down with neck and shoulder injuries last week.
Big Plays in the Ohio State passing game - The good news for the Hoosiers is that Coach Jim Tressel's offense has been anything but imposing this fall. The Buckeyes rank 11th in the Big Ten in total offense (359.7 yards/game); 10th in scoring (26.5 points/game) and passing (194.3 yards/game); and 9th in rushing (165.3 yards/game).
The bad news is the weapons are there. It starts at wide receiver, where Ted Ginn, Jr. (20 catches, 270 yards, 2 TDs), and Santonio Holmes (27 catches, 475 yards, 4 TDs) have the speed to burn Indiana's secondary. The duo combined for three touchdowns in last week's 35-24 win over Michigan State, with each coming on a big play. Holmes had touchdown catches of 46 and 51 yards, while Ginn had a 57-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Troy Smith.
Indiana's secondary, meanwhile, has given up its share of big plays in the passing game. The Hoosiers have given up five pass plays of at least 35 yards in their three Big Ten games, including three last weekend against Iowa. One of Iowa's big gainers came on a miscommunication between an IU cornerback and safety while another happened after safety Aaron Mitchell fell down in coverage, but those sorts of mistakes would be disastrous Saturday.
Indiana wants to make Ohio State offense move the chains and try to methodically move down the field for points, something it's been unsuccessful at this year. Ohio State has put together only four touchdown drives of at least 10 plays this season – Indiana, on the other hand, has done that nine times, including twice last weekend against Iowa. In last week's win over Michigan State, the Buckeye offense scored four times with drives that consisted of three, four, five and five plays.
Special Teams: Ohio State is one of the league's best. Placekicker Josh Huston is 11-of-13 on the year, with his only two misses coming from 50 yards out. Punter A.J. Trapasso, meanwhile, is averaging 42.7 yards per punt and is surrendering only 4.1 yards/return. He's put nine of his 26 punts inside the opposing team's 20-yard line, while he's also forced eight fair catches.
The biggest concern, though, is the Buckeye return men - Ginn and Holmes. Both will be back on kickoff returns, and they'll both get a chance to touch the ball on punt returns as well. Holmes has put up the best numbers to date, averaging 21.9 yards on kickoff returns and 15.1 yards on punt returns. Ginn returned four kicks for touchdowns a year ago, but has been held largely in check this season (6.9 yards/punt return; 18.8 yards/kickoff return).
The concern with Ginn is that it seems to be only a matter of time before he comes up with a big play or two on special teams. Indiana's coverage units need to make sure it doesn't happen Saturday. Indiana's punt coverage units allowed Iowa's Jovan Johnson to return each of his three punt returns for at least 10 yards Saturday, including one 31-yard return. The unit also gave up a 63-yard touchdown to Wisconsin's Brandon Williams in the Big Ten opener.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - – Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Three Days and Counting...
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