Buckeyes Have No Time For Senioritis Against Indiana

Senior Day in Ohio Stadium is always a special occasion. Eighteen seniors, including Buckeye stalwarts such as Carlos Hyde, Corey “Philly” Brown, Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall, and C.J. Barnett will be introduced for recognition by the fans, their respective families, teammates, and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, in their final game as a Buckeye in Ohio Stadium. What may be an emotional moment for all could involve Christian Bryant, who was lost to injury near the end of the Ohio State/Wisconsin game on September 28th.

Senioritis is something that seems to afflict most students as they wind down their academic careers. Unfortunately for Ohio State fans and players, senioritis has been an issue in Ohio Stadium in recent seasons:

In 2011, Penn State defeated Ohio State 20-14 in the last home game at Ohio Stadium. This was the first post-Joe Paterno victory for Penn State, and one of many losses for the Buckeyes in the ill-fated 2011 season.

In 2007, Illinois defeated # 1 ranked Ohio State, 28-21. While Ohio State recovered nicely to earn a BCS Championship Bid after this defeat, it still marked a bitter ending for seniors such as Kirk Barton and Alex Boone.

Other areas of concern for Ohio State for this game stem from the fact that Ohio State suffered defensive lapses in their 60-35 victory over Illinois last week. Factor in how Indiana took Ohio State down to the wire last season, and one can understand why Ohio State cannot overlook Indiana in this upcoming contest.

Coach Meyer, a graduate assistant on the 1987 Ohio State coaching staff that suffered through what former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce termed “the darkest day in Ohio State football” in a bitter home loss to Indiana in 1987, will keep his team focused upon the task at hand. I have every confidence in Coach Meyer relating these facts to his team before Saturday’s kickoff…

Below are some areas I will focus upon throughout the game…

Ohio State’s Focus Upon The Running Game: Indiana may be an offensive threat, but is poor by any definition defensively. A key way to keep Indiana’s dangerous offense off the field is for Ohio State to control the clock by relying upon its dominant running game.

Carlos Hyde is on the doorstep of a 1000 yard rushing season for Coach Meyer. Hyde should have his 1000 yards for this season by the end of the first quarter, based upon Indiana’s defensive status.

Once Ohio State has a comfortable lead, it would be advantageous for Ohio State to use other running backs such as Jordan Hall, Rod Smith, Ezekiel Elliott, and Warren Ball in the second half to finish off Indiana. Like Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall is also a senior playing in his final game in Ohio Stadium. It would be a fitting conclusion to Hall’s Buckeye career if Hall had an opportunity to score at least one more time in front of the Ohio Stadium crowd.

Will Dontre Wilson Be Involved In The Game Plan? Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman acknowledged earlier this week that Wilson needs to be more involved in the offensive attack, yet wonders how to do that without Ohio State’s other offensive weapons such as Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Corey “Philly” Brown suffering as a result. Perhaps once the Ohio State running game has taken control of the game, Wilson may be factored into the contest.

Can Ohio State’s Pass Defense Slow Down Indiana? Illinois scored 35 points on Ohio State, the most points surrendured by Ohio State this season. Indiana, led by players such as Nate Sudfeld, Tre Roberson, Stephen Houston, Cody Latimer, and one-time Ohio State recruit and former Cleveland Glenville star Shane Wynn, can score on anyone. A case in point – Indiana was able to score 28 points on Michigan State, and Michigan State is arguably the toughest defense in the nation.

Secondary players such as Bradley Roby, Doran Grant, Armani Reeves, Tyvis Powell, and the aforementioned C.J. Barnett will all need to show up big in what promises to be an Indiana aerial assault. What would truly help would be if Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, and Michael Bennett can contribute with a pass rush to throw off the timing of the Indiana passing attack.

Has Ohio State Figured Out Its Special Teams Coverage Units? Shane Wynn is capable of taking a punt back for a touchdown, as V’Angelo Bentley of Illinois (another Cleveland Glenville alum, like Wynn) did last week against Ohio State. Has Coach Meyer figured out what went wrong against Illinois, and will it be fixed against Indiana?

No time for senioritis in Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Ohio State wants to send its eighteen senior players off with a victory in their last game in Ohio Stadium. It will bear watching to see how Ohio State handles the offensive challenges Indiana will bring to this game.

Ohio State @ Northwestern – Play It Like Tressel

Congratulations to Ohio State on beating a solid Wisconsin team, 31-24. Ohio State seemed to take its foot off the gas in the second half (more on that later), but a win over a team like Wisconsin is always a good thing. As someone who was in attendance in Ohio Stadium for the victory, I would characterize the win as somewhat underwhelming. I would not be so harsh as the below tweet, but it gives a good analysis of what it felt like sitting in the stands during the second half ~

Braxton Miller returned to the starting lineup, showing little to no ill effects from his MCL injury.  While I agree that Miller’s running abilities and elusive skills are a tremendous asset, I would prefer to see fewer designed quarterback runs.  From my perspective, Miller would be far more dangerous on passing downs, scrambling if a play breaks down or a receiver is unable to get open.  Even Coach Meyer stated that Miller carrying the ball 22 times is too much.

It seemed to me, and perhaps I am mistaken, that Ohio State’s offense under Kenny Guiton seemed more balanced than when Braxton Miller played versus Wisconsin.  Guiton is not nearly the running threat that Miller is, and there were far fewer designed quarterback runs for Guiton during his games than for Miller versus Wisconsin.  Also, Guiton seems to run the option better, forcing the defense to commit to the pitch, where Miller is more inclined to turn upfield on a quarterback keeper.

I am not advocating a quarterback change, or trying to incite a controversy.  I would simply prefer fewer designed quarterback runs, especially for a quarterback coming off a MCL injury, and better offensive balance.

Regarding the designed Ohio State second half slowdown versus Wisconsin, I did not have as much of a problem with the conservative approach Ohio State decided to implement.  Ohio State focused on shutting down Wisconsin’s running game, and forced Wisconsin to go the length of the field to score in the second half.  Punter Cameron Johnston was consistently able to land punts deep in Wisconsin territory.

I do not have a problem with a conservative approach.  I would argue that conservative does not have to mean predictable.  Against Wisconsin, first and second downs were usually Braxton Miller designed runs (see up above), which would lead to third downs where Ohio State would sometimes convert.

Do you want to run the ball and chew up the clock?  Absolutely.  I would simply argue that with backs such as Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall (who should have played more versus Wisconsin, by the way), it is possible to be conservative yet not predictable.

Feel terrible for Christian Bryant with his injury at the end of the game.  I am hopeful Ohio State explores the medical redshirt option for Bryant, even if Bryant is not granted one by the NCAA.

As for Bradley Roby…let’s just say that being projected as a first round draft choice does not mean that you will be a first round draft choice.  Roby needs to rebound, starting with Northwestern.

On to Northwestern.  With Bryant’s injury, the likely starter will be Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown.  Brown was a highly touted recruit in the 2009 class, and this will be Brown’s opportunity to claim the starting job outright.

Heading up to Evanston, for another night game, another nationally televised game, versus an undefeated Northwestern team, what is the approach Ohio State should take?

Play Northwestern how former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel used to play Northwestern.

What does that mean?

Ohio State played Northwestern from 2001-2008, losing at Northwestern in 2004.  While Tressel’s teams usually played Northwestern well, it seemed as though the loss in 2004 to the Wildcats seemed to spur the Buckeyes to play with a true killer mentality from 2005-2008:

Ohio State should come out, ready to go against Northwestern’s mediocre defense.  While Northwestern has a solid offense, Ohio State should be up for the challenge, even with the loss of Christian Bryant in the secondary.  I will go Ohio State 56, Northwestern 31.