5 Questions: Ohio State at Indiana

Both teams rush and protect their quarterback well, making that our No. 1 issue, and both teams could be running offenses different than those they used a year ago. How those changes play out as well as what it will mean for the Buckeyes to play without a senior co-captain on defense are all part of this week's Five Questions.

1. Can the Buckeyes protect their quarterback and get after their opponent's?

Indiana and Ohio State are tied for second in the Big Ten in sacks with 11 through four games, meaning both teams will look to disrupt the opposing passing game with pressure.

Star ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton have made between them exactly half of the Hoosier sacks, while Cameron Heyward and Todd Denlinger both have a pair for the Buckeyes.

Both teams have protected their quarterbacks well so far, with Indiana tied for first in the nation with just two sacks allowed and Ohio State right behind with three, but Ohio State tight ends coach John Peterson knows Buckeye offensive tackles J.B. Shugarts, Mike Adams and Andy Miller will have their hands full.

"There's no question the two defensive ends are very talented and will be a challenge for young tackles this week," said Peterson, who also helps coach the tackles.


2. Can Indiana's pistol offense beat Ohio State's Silver Bullet defense?

After back-to-back shutouts, folks in Columbus are beginning to feel this group of Buckeye defenders could earn a spot among the best in recent memory.

Ohio State is seventh in the nation, allowing just 11.3 points per game so far and having allowed just seven scoring drives in 28 quarters, making Indiana head coach Bill Lynch a believer.

"They are just so sound in what they do defensively so that is the first thing that jumps out at you," Lynch told reporters at a press conference earlier this week.

But Indiana is coming off the best offensive showing it has ever made against Michigan both in terms of points (33) and yards (467), making it appear as if the new pistol offense is starting to find its stride.

Ohio State defensive lineman Dexter Larimore, the one Buckeye from Indiana, said not to get too caught up in the new formation that puts the quarterback in a short shotgun snap with a running back behind him.

"We have to know a lot of stuff because they run everything," he said. "It's not just a pistol team. They run all that stuff. The biggest thing for us up front is if we get penetration and keep playing like we have been, just keep getting a push and letting the linebackers fly and stuff like that, that takes care of a lot of offenses."


3. Or will the "Wild Hoosier" play a key role for Indiana?

Ohio State has more to worry about than just what Indiana does with starting quarterback Ben Chappell taking snaps. Indiana has also effectively mixed in direct snaps to Mitchell Evans, a former star quarterback at West Milton (Ohio) Milton-Union who is listed as a receiver on the Hoosier roster but frequently takes snaps himself.

Indiana's first touchdown last week against Michigan came after Evans pitched to fellow receiver Tandon Doss on the option for a 25-yard touchdown.

On the season, Evans has 10 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown, nine rushers for 36 yards and 2 completions on 3 pass attempts for 12 yards.

"The thing that adds a lot to it is all the different formations you can get out of it and plus the substitutions and who is actually in the game," Ohio State safeties coach Paul Haynes said. "Now you've got to recognize that guy is at quarterback because he's out there all the time because he's one of their receivers."


4. How much will the Buckeyes defense miss Kurt Coleman?

Ohio State players expressed disappointment they will not have senior co-captain Coleman with them in Bloomington as a result of a suspension handed down from the Big Ten, but they sounded confident they can soldier on without him for a week.

Tuesday, head coach Jim Tressel said redshirt freshman Orhian Johnson has gotten the most practice repetitions of the safeties besides regulars Coleman, Jermale Hines and Anderson Russell.

Hines and Russell, both of whom have started games in the base and nickel defense this season, figure to be the safeties in the base this week but Haynes said as of Wednesday night no decision had been made on who would be the fifth defensive back when the Buckeyes go with a nickel package.

The Buckeyes are sure to miss their top defensive playmaker in more way than one.

He is second on the team in tackles with 29, has caused three fumbles and intercepted one pass in four games, and his leadership would be invaluable against a team that changes things up as much as Indiana.

"I think it adds to everyone's workload," Haynes said. "Everyone has to step up and do a little bit more and study a little bit more. It's the whole group."


5. How will the Ohio State coaches draw up the offensive game plan this week?

After three weeks heavy with I-formations, the attack against the Fighting Illini last week was almost exclusively from the shotgun.

Neither Tressel nor Peterson, the two offensive coaches made available for interviews this week, seemed ready to declare the coming of a revolution, but both admitted the adjustments made a week ago are a reaction to the strengths of the Ohio State personnel.

"We felt our guys understood and did those things well," Tressel said. "And we thought those were the best things against Illinois and now that's what they're hard at work at on Sunday (and) Monday, trying to figure out what's the best match-up versus Indiana and how much one back, how much two back, how much under center, how much shotgun, how much three wides, how much four wides - what's the best thing for us?"


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