OSU RB Antonio Pittman vs. IU LBs Adam McClurg and Geno Johnson – When it comes to the Ohio State offense the names everyone hears about are quarterback Troy Smith and wide receivers Ted Ginn, Jr., and Anthony Gonzalez. But Pittman is every bit as important to the offensive success of the No. 1 team in the nation.
The 5-11, 195-pound junior is averaging 96.7 yards/game and 5.3 yards/carry, and Indiana will see plenty of him Saturday. He's rushed for at least 100 yards in four of the Buckeyes' first seven games, and he's had huge games in each of the past two seasons against Indiana. As a freshman in 2004 he ran for 144 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and he followed that up with a 26-carry, 133-yard effort in Bloomington a year ago. Those Pittman performances helped the Buckeyes average 261 rushing yards in the two contests and outscore Indiana by a combined 71-17.
It will be up to McClurg and Johnson to wrap up Pittman and keep him from putting together another huge afternoon. If the Hoosier front seven proves unable to slow down Pittman and the IU staff is forced to inch safeties Will Meyers and Austin Thomas toward the line of scrimmage, the IU secondary will be ripe to give up a big play in the passing game. It's on the IU linebackers to keep that from happening.
IU QB Kellen Lewis vs. OSU LB James Laurinaitis- If Indiana is going to stay in the game against the Buckeyes it is going to need to put points on the board against a defense that's given up double-digit points only two times this season. And that means Kellen Lewis is going to need to have a special afternoon to keep this game close.
Laurinaitis has stepped into the starting lineup at middle linebacker in place of NFL first-round draft pick A.J. Hawk and has quickly established himself as one of the Big Ten's best. The 6-3, 244-pound sophomore leads Ohio State in tackles with 59, and he's also among the league leaders with four interceptions. Lewis will have to deal with him on blitzes (he has three sacks this season) and he'll need to be aware of where he is when he drops back into pass coverage as well. When Lewis is forced to tuck the ball and run, he can expect Laurinaitis to be one of his pursuers.
Lewis is coming off a huge performance in IU's upset win against Iowa, completing 19-of-25 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns. That effort earned him USA Today National Player of the Week honors, and the redshirt freshman will need a similar sort of performance to keep the Hoosiers in this game. Ohio State is loaded with playmakers on both sides of the ball, but Lewis has the sort of athleticism, elusiveness and playmaking ability that can create headaches for even the best defenses. He did it against Iowa, and he'll need to do it again this weekend.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
Two Days and Counting...
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