Match OSU physically, emotionally - While many might view any Indiana vs. Ohio State football encounter this way, the Hoosiers can't go into this contest viewing themselves as David trying to slay Goliath.
There's no questioning the fact that the OSU program has been a Big Ten goliath over the years, and it remains one this season, despite its disappointing 4-2 start. Despite the setback to Penn State, many still view the Buckeyes as the team to beat for the Big Ten title, based in large part on a defense that is among the nation's best. There's also no question that Indiana has been one of the Big Ten's "Davids" for the better part of 12 years, without a whole lot of slayings to show for it.
But Indiana has to go into this contest knowing that history plays no part in Saturday's outcome.
Ohio State will arrive in Bloomington expecting to dominate the Hoosiers in the trenches. The Buckeyes will likely try to pound the Hoosiers with tailback Antonio Pittman, running him behind an offensive line that averages 305 pounds. Defensively the Buckeyes will try to take the fight to Blake Powers and the Hoosier wideouts instead of sitting on their heels and letting the action come to them. They'll blitz Powers regularly, they'll try to man-handle James Hardy and the rest of the IU wideouts, and they'll try to be the first team this year to contain Hoeppner's offensive attack.
Much as they did in their encounter at Wisconsin, Indiana's players need to show early on that they're not going to get pushed around physically. That will be most important in the trenches, and on both sides of the ball. Emotionally, Indiana needs to match – if not exceed – the Buckeyes energy level. If they can do those things – and avoid giving up the big play – Indiana will hang around in this contest.
Force Turnovers – and capitalize on them - What's the best way to score points against one of the nation's best defenses? Get the ball with a short field to work with.
That's what Michigan State had a week ago, but the Spartans didn't take advantage of it. Four Ohio State turnovers gave the Spartans the ball at the OSU 4, 23 and 26-yard lines and once at the MSU 37. But Michigan State came away with only one touchdown and a field goal following those miscues. That wasn't nearly enough as Ohio State won, 35-24.
If and when Indiana gets the ball courtesy an OSU miscue, it must make the Buckeyes pay every time. Indiana has been successful in putting together long sustained drives this season (IU has put together eight touchdown drives of at least 80 yards this season), but those sort of time-consuming drives will be harder to come by against an Ohio State defense that ranks ninth in the nation in total defense (274.5 yards/game) and has given up only ten touchdowns this season.
If that's the bad news, the good news is that the Buckeyes have been gratuitous with the ball. Ohio State has fumbled 21 times this season, losing it 10 times. It ranks 104th nationally in turnover margin (-6) and has 15 fumbles in its lat three games. While Ohio State has made protecting the ball a point of emphasis this week, it's hard to imagine that it will be able to completely eliminate its propensity to put the ball on ground against the Hoosiers, and Indiana must be able to capitalize on each and every one of those miscues.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - – Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Four Key Matchups
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Two Days and Counting...
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