Indiana's Front Seven vs. OSU TBs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine - Bill Lynch makes no bones about what his team's No. 1 priority is against Ohio State. "You can't let Ohio State come in here and run the ball all over you," Lynch said.
That means the first thing that Indiana has to do is keep Herron and Saine from chewing up big chunks of yardage with the running game. Indiana's coaches know that quarterback Terrelle Pryor will make a couple of plays with his abilities as a runner over the course of the game, but they can ill-afford to let Ohio State's running back tandem control the game on the ground.
While Indiana tries to slow the Buckeyes' running game down, Ohio State won't shy away from the challenge. Jim Tressel's running backs will most likely attack early and often between the tackles, where they can test Indiana's young defensive tackles and see if they're better able to hold the line of scrimmage than Illinois was last week when the Buckeyes piled up 236 rushing yards.
What Indiana wants to avoid is struggling with the OSU running game early, and having to inch safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk toward the line of scrimmage as a result. That's when Pryor can burn the IU secondary for a big play, most likely to wideout Dane Sanzenbacher who has been on the receiving end of all four of Pryor's touchdowns this season.
Indiana's Offensive Line vs. OSU's Defensive Front - If Indiana is going to have a chance to be successful offensively, it is going to need a big effort from Rodger Saffold, Justin Pagan, Will Matte, Pete Saxon and James Brewer against a very good Ohio State front four.
The Hoosiers are hoping freshman tailback Darius Willis can have another big game and provide some offensive balance, but that depends on the IU offensive line giving him some holes to run through. Willis is capable of breaking tackles once he reaches the second level and he showed last week that he has the speed to run away from the secondary. But if he's being forced to elude Buckeye defensive linemen who have penetrated into the IU backfield, OSU's defenders will swarm to him and will it difficult for him to get untracked.
Ohio State is also a much better pass rushing team than the numbers would suggest. The Buckeyes have a relatively modest total of nine sacks through four games, but one of their games came against a completed run-oriented Navy squad and another was against option-heavy Illinois, which features elusive quarterback Juice Williams. Ohio State can apply plenty of pressure with that front four, and it will be up to IU's group to give Ben Chappell time to throw.
The Buckeyes might not have household names like recent standouts Will Smith and Vernon Gholston, but Jim Tressel's defensive line will clearly provide Indiana's offensive line with its toughest test to date. Defensive ends Cameron Heyward (son of former NFL player Craig "Ironhead" Heyward) and Thaddeus Gibson are of particular concern for an IU offensive line that has surrendered an NCAA-low two sacks to date.
IU WR Tandon Doss vs. OSU CB Chimdi Chekwa – Ohio State lost a pair of very good starting cornerbacks a year ago in Malcolm Jenkins (1st round NFL pick, No. 14 overall) and Donald Washington (4/102), and now the 6'0", 188-pound Chekwa takes over as the team's No. 1 corner. The loss of Jenkins and Washington is significant, but Chekwa is a junior who saw plenty of action a year ago as the team's No. 3 corner. He's a member of Ohio State's track and field team so he clearly has plenty of speed, and he's also a big hitter who can make tackles in the open field.
Doss, meanwhile, has separated himself as Ben Chappell's favorite target. He ranks third in the Big Ten in receptions (26) and second in receiving yards (374) and has a pair of 100-yard games to his credit during the season's first month. He's a sure-handed wideout in third down situations for Chappell to pick out, but he's also shown that he's capable of getting separation when he goes deep. He did that on a 58-yard reception during the Michigan game, and he's done it on a couple of other occasions where Chappell overthrew him on plays that could have resulted in touchdowns with an on-the-mark throw.
Doss will need to win this head-to-head battle Saturday night if Indiana wants to be successful. While Indiana wants to be able to move the ball on the ground and hold its own as far as time of possession, most concede that the Hoosiers are going to need a big play or two if they are going to give themselves a chance to spring the upset. Doss is the wideout that has proven most capable of making those types of plays, and Indiana will need him to come up with one against a very formidable foe in Chekwa.
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
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