Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) – The seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes can
win the Big Ten’s East Division crown and clinch a spot in the conference
championship game for the second straight year if they are able to get by the
visiting Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday.
Both teams compete in the East Division, and come in at opposite ends of the
standings — Indiana in last place with an 0-6 league ledger, and Ohio State
in first place at 6-0.
The Hoosiers, who will not be going to a bowl game as they are just 3-7
overall, have lost their last five bouts, including a 45-23 decision at
Rutgers last Saturday. Following this contest, IU will host intrastate rival
Purdue on Nov. 29 to bring the curtain down on the 2014 campaign.
Ohio State beat East Division nemesis Michigan State on the road two weeks ago
(49-37), and then followed that up with a 31-24 win at Minnesota. The
Buckeyes, who have won a record 22 consecutive Big Ten bouts during the
regular season, and 12 in a row on the road (longest active streak in the
country), have only one scheduled game left on the docket, a Nov. 29 matchup
with bitter rival Michigan at home.
Ohio State has dominated the series with Indiana since its inception, going
69-12-5, which includes victories in each of the last 18 meetings. The
Hoosiers’ last triumph was in Bloomington back in 1988, and their last win in
Columbus took place the year prior.
With a record four games below .500, it’s certainly not surprising to see
Indiana ranked among the worst teams in the Big Ten in nearly every
statistical category. That is, other than rushing as RB Tevin Coleman ranks
second in the league and the country with an average of 167.8 ypg. He is well
off the pace set by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (190.9 ypg), who set a new FBS
single-game record by churning out an eye-popping 408 yards in the Badgers’
recent win over Nebraska.
Coleman has rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and scored 12 TDs this season,
helping mask the deficiencies of the Indiana passing attack, which accounts
for only 191.8 ypg and has resulted in a grand total of seven TDs. Quarterback
Nate Sudfeld has been somewhat efficient (.605), and Shane Wynn (43 rec., 568
yards, three TDs) has been the team’s top target down the field.
In last week’s double-digit loss at Rutgers, Coleman was a man possessed in
producing the second-best single-game rushing effort in school history, as he
rumbled his way to 307 yards and a score on 32 carries. Freshman Zander
Diamont played the entire game under center, but completed fewer than half of
his pass attempts (15-of-31) in registering 179 yards, a TD and an INT. Wynn
was pretty much a one-man operation as he caught 11 balls for 120 yards and a
Indiana actually outgained the Scarlet Knights, 473-429, but committed nine
penalties for a loss of 82 yards, turned the ball over three times, gave up
five sacks, and was just 1-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts. Antonio
Allen and T.J. Simmons paced the defense with seven stops each, and they rank
as the team’s top tacklers on the season with 58 stops apiece.
Despite his team’s lack of success, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is proud of the
effort put forth by his guys from one week to the next.
“No matter what the odds and where we are at, they are going to come out, play
hard and they are going to fight.”
He continued, “The last couple of weeks, the way they started and the way they
played really shows there is a lot of fight in this football team. I respect
that and appreciate those kids a bunch.”
At the other end of the spectrum reside the Ohio State Buckeyes, a club with
an overabundance of talent and one of the game’s top coaches leading them
along. OSU ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and fifth nationally in scoring (44.5
ppg), while generating nearly 510 total yards per contest to rank second and
Quarterback J.T. Barrett has been the catalyst, as he is hitting 64 percent of
his passes for an average of 235.6 ypg, and he has thrown 29 TDs against eight
INTs. No one receiver has taken flight for Urban Meyer’s team, instead Barrett
looks to a slew of guys to make plays down the field. Michael Thomas and Devin
Smith are both over 560 receiving yards, and they each have eight TD catches.
As for the rushing attack, Ezekiel Elliott leads the way with 954 yards and he
has scored seven times, while Barrett has found the end zone nine times in
tallying 771 yards on the ground.
The Ohio State defense has stood tall in the face of most adversaries this
season, the unit yielding 22 points and 323.9 yards per game. The Buckeyes
have been especially busy in the secondary, as they lead the league in
interceptions with 16, and they are tied for third in turnover margin at +5.
Joshua Perry has a team-high 85 tackles, while Joey Bosa continues to be a
monster at the point of attack with his 11.5 sacks and 17.5 TFL, the team
ranking fourth in the conference with 29 sacks. Both Von Bell and Doran Grant
have three picks, while three others have a pair.
It was only 15 degrees at TCF Bank Stadium last weekend, marking the coldest
start to a game in Ohio State history, but it didn’t matter much, at least not
to the offense which rolled up 489 yards, 289 of which came on the ground.
Barrett did it all for the Buckeyes, rushing for an OSU quarterback-record 189
yards and a TD, while going 15-of-25 for 200 yards, three TDs and one INT in
the passing game. Elliott added 91 yards on 18 totes, while Jalin Marshall led
the receiving corps with five grabs for 95 yards and a score.
The defense allowed Minnesota RB David Cobb to tally 145 yards and score three
TDs, but that was it as the Golden Gophers only got 85 yards out of their
aerial attack. OSU turned the ball over three times, while UM coughed it up
twice. Bosa was credited with 2.5 sacks, while Adolphus Washington led the
team with eight tackles. Grant and Bell both had picks.
While it wasn’t pretty, Meyer was pleased to come out of the Minnesota game
with a win.
“Great team win. Not great execution, but great team win. It was a tough
environment against a very good team that we have a lot of respect for.”