At noon on Saturday, Ohio State (5-3, 2-2) and Indiana (1-8, 0-5) will kickoff for the 85th time in the two schools' histories. The Buckeyes own the all-time series with a 66-12-5 mark.
Ohio State has won 15-straight in this series, with Indiana's last win coming in 1988.
The Buckeyes are 14-1 in November since 2005, which does not include last season's 3-0 mark that was vacated.
Ohio State enters this game having won back-to-back games this season, while Indiana comes in having lost six straight.
The last time an unranked Buckeye team played the Hoosiers was 2004. Ohio State came away with the 30-7 win.
When Indiana Has The Ball
Indiana is one of the youngest teams in the nation. Last week they started five freshmen (four true freshmen) on offense and seven (four true freshmen) on defense. They have had 46 different starters this season.
Two weeks ago at Iowa, Tre Roberson became the first true freshman quarterback to ever start a game for the Hoosiers. All he did was throw for 197 yards and rush for another 84 yards in a 45-24 loss to the Hawkeyes. He earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Week Award for his troubles.
Roberson is a mobile quarterback, very much in the mold of Antwaan Randle El. He can throw the ball reasonably well, but being a freshman he doesn't always throw it to the right spot.
The Hoosiers will run a lot of zone read plays which allows Roberson to utilize his athleticism and speed. Though he is just a freshman starting his third game, he has shown solid decision-making skills on the read option, which is a great sign for the Hoosiers' future.
Indiana has rushed for over 200 yards in three-consecutive Big Ten contests, and that includes a 223-yard output against Wisconsin this season. The Ohio State defensive line will need to be aware of Roberson, but they'll likely take the fight to the Hoosiers, which will then make Roberson have to make decisions quicker.
Defensive linemen John Simon and John Hankins have been dominating offensive lines of late, and even though the Hoosiers seem to have their offensive line squared away, they are in trouble on Saturday.
Ohio State brings the most versatile defensive line in the conference into this game, and if Roberson is reading anything off of what they're doing, then they will also throw in a few wrinkles for the rookie.
Expect the linebackers to get into the backfield a bit more this week as well. The Buckeyes will want to stop the option offense before it gets started.
Junior college running back Stephen Houston is a big tailback (6-0 228) who is averaging 97.2 yards rushing per game in Big Ten play. His heavy inclusion into this offense, as well as Roberson's, have allowed the Hoosiers to run the ball as well as they have. He has some burst, but also uses his size well.
The passing game could be a bit of a problem for Indiana this week. While Roberson has a decent arm, some of his passes are in the air for a while and they allow defenders to catch up with them. To make matters worse, he likes to throw downfield outside the hashes, which allows cornerbacks even more time to make plays.
Ohio State has one of the best secondaries in the conference and the Indiana receivers will be outmanned all game long. Roberson's receivers won't be open for long, so he will have to time his passes perfectly, which he can't exactly do right now.
Once the Hoosiers find out that they can't run, they will have to either concede the game, or start throwing the ball more often. If they do the latter, the Ohio State defensive line and linebackers will begin to make Roberson's life miserable. It's a good thing that he's mobile, because he'll be running for his life throughout most of this game.
The Hoosiers will pass to the backs and tight ends quite a bit because their receivers have trouble getting open. This will keep the linebackers and safeties on their toes, but it shouldn't be anything that they can't handle.
Punter Adam Pines has struggled at times this year, averaging just 37.8 yards per punt. The short punts limit big returns, though the Hoosiers have given up a 60-yard return for a touchdown this season.
Place-kicker Mitch Ewald is 5-5 on field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards. He is also 12-12 on extra points.
True freshman receiver Shane Wynn is a dazzling kick returner who already has a 99-yard touchdown return to his credit. He's only averaging 21.8 yards per return, but all he needs is a sliver of space to slide through. The Hoosiers have only returned four punts this season with a long of just ten yards.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
The Buckeyes are coming off of a gigantic win over the Badgers last week, and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller's performance in that game was good enough to secure him the Big Ten Freshman of the Week Award.
This game will be a good time for Miller to throw the football around more than he's gotten to do in the past. The Buckeyes close with three solid opponents, and anything the coaches can do to make this offense more complete and balanced should be done against a Hoosier defense that is allowing 515.6 yards of total offense in Big Ten play.
Throwing the ball around will also allow the receivers to get involved in the offense in a way that doesn't involve run blocking. For instance, receiver Chris Fields has started the last six games for the Buckeyes but only has three catches to show for it.
Ohio State has playmakers on the outside,. They need to be given a chance to make those plays against Indiana.
The Hoosiers have a big secondary—everybody in the starting lineup is at least 6-0—but they're also a bit of a slower secondary. There are big plays to be made.
Three of the starters are freshmen, and the fourth (cornerback Greg Heban) is a redshirt sophomore who used to be a pitcher on the Hoosiers' baseball team. True freshman safety Mark Murphy has also started three games at linebacker. The Buckeyes should absolutely attack this defense downfield and let the best players make the plays.
The passing game will be available for Ohio State, but it will be the running game that dictates everything about this game. The Hoosiers will sell out to stop it, and the Buckeyes won't blink to run straight into the teeth of it to showcase their dominance.
It's no coincidence that when running back Boom Herron returned to an Ohio State team that was sitting at 3-3 and teetering on the brink of collapse has somehow managed to beat two ranked opponents in a row.
In his two games back, Herron has 56 carries for 274 yards and a touchdown. He has brought a consistency to an Ohio State offense that had no such thing prior to his arrival.
Tailback Jordan Hall is doubtful for this game, which means that Carlos Hyde should see considerable action. The last time he received a consistent number of carries he was busy rushing for 104 yards at Nebraska on just 13 touches. Hyde has been itching for carries of late and he should get to do plenty of scratching against a defense that is allowing 5.5 yards per carry against conference foes this season.
The Hoosiers have a bit of an integrated front four, starting two veterans at tackle and two freshmen at defensive end. Tackle Adam Replogle leads the team in tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (4.0), but there's very little else in the way of disruptors here.
Indiana has started five different defensive ends while they search for somebody who can get to the quarterback, but they haven't found anybody who meets their needs yet. Braxton Miller will have time to get to his second and third reads all game long.
The Buckeyes will have the special teams advantage as they have in most contests this season. The loss of Jordan Hall, however, will have to be addressed. Fortunately, the Buckeyes also have Chris Fields, who already has a punt return touchdown this season.
Finding a kick returner won't be hard, but they shouldn't be overly busy either.
Punter Ben Buchanan has had a large hand (and foot) in Ohio State's success this season. He routinely pins the opponents inside the 15-yard line, allowing the defense to take over from there. Place-kicker Drew Basil has yet to miss a kick in Big Ten play.
How It Will End Up
Don't be surprised when the Buckeyes sling the ball around a bit more this week and it ends up leading to an interception or two for Braxton Miller. He's still learning, but this game is exactly the type of on-the-job training the he needs.
While the Buckeyes will look to throw the ball a little more than normal, it is going to be hard to turn away from the running game because of how successful it will be. Ohio State will have two 100-yard rushers this week, and if Miller carries the ball enough, they may actually have three.
Tre Roberson is going to be a good player in this league, but he won't have any room to move this week. The Ohio State defense is going to torment him like a bad memory that just won't be blocked out.
The Buckeyes won't score a ton, but their second touchdown will be enough to get the win.
Ohio State 38 – Indiana 10
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