Indiana is not a good football team. They have never been very good so that isn’t much of a surprise, but they appear to be particularly awful this year even by their standards.
What does that mean for the Buckeyes? Well, it means that the chances of losing this weekend are very slim, but it also presents a tremendous opportunity for the team.
Rather than looking past the Hoosiers to bigger challenges down the road (aka playing flat), the Buckeyes can build off of an amazing win and continue to work themselves, week by week, into a championship caliber team.
Good teams win games; championship teams win games and get better each week in the process.
The Buckeyes have already done a great job at getting better (with some very large bumps along the way) as evidenced by the results against Wisconsin, but they need to avoid complacency by staying hungry against an inferior Hoosier squad.
Fortunately, I am confident in the coaching staff’s ability to keep the team focused, especially with the very real opportunity to play in the Big Ten championship game on the horizon if they win out.
Jim Tressel always said that Novembers are for contenders, and the Buckeyes are once again contenders in what has historically been a very successful month for them.
The team doesn’t control their destiny entirely; they are depending on Nebraska or Wisconsin (or both) to knock off Penn State to open the door to the Big Ten title game completely, but the chances of that happening are high and the Buckeyes need to prepare each week like they are getting ready for the championship game.
Here are my keys to taking the first step this week.
Pick some of our favorite running plays and run them into the ground.
The Buckeyes gained 268 yards on the ground against the Badgers; the Hoosiers are giving up 235 yards per game on the ground.
Do the math: the offensive line and Boom Herron should be in for a good time on Saturday.
The Buckeyes can’t just throw out a random assortment of run plays, however- even though that would likely work just fine.
Instead, by picking a number of base run plays and using them repeatedly, the Buckeyes can accomplish several things:
First, they can practice the plays to perfection and hopefully continue using them effectively for the rest of the year (is it too much to ask that these plays aren’t Dave right and left?). On top of that, they can establish some clear tendencies against a team that can’t do anything to counter them and then use those tendencies to set up future opponents.
Based on Jim Bollman’s track record, I am not sure if this is a realistic expectation, but I believe this team has improved across the board. Yes, that means even the offensive coaching staff.
Even though it has taken an unacceptable amount of time to get here (and I still want to see the offensive staff completely revamped at the end of the year) I believe Bollman and company finally have an idea of their identity and what they want to do on offense.
With a clear identity established on the ground against the Hoosiers, the staff can throw in some tweaks against the better defenses down the road to keep them on their heals.
That’s my convoluted scheme for this game, but the bottom line: let’s run the hell out of the ball on Saturday.
Pick some of our favorite passing plans and run them into the ground (throw them into the air?).
The Buckeyes are not going to win games through passing the ball this season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use it a little bit to augment the running game.
At this point, I don’t even know if we have favorite passing plays given how few we have completed this season. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that some favorites have been established in practice or something.
Either way, Braxton Miller has become much more comfortable in the offense, and it’s time to start utilizing his abilities in the passing game a bit more.
Like running the ball, and for the same reasons, just pick a few plays and get really good at them against a hapless Indiana defense.
Build from that group of base plays for the rest of the season.
Consistency on defense.
The defense has proven throughout the season that they can play at a very high level. What they haven’t established is that they can maintain that high level of play for four straight quarters.
Part of the problem was an offense that went three-and-out far too often, leaving the defense on the field constantly and wearing them out. Hopefully that won’t be an issue moving forward.
At the same time, mental lapses have also been an issue, and eliminating those would be nice no matter what the offense happens to be doing at the time.
This key is a double edged sword in many ways. The second string and beyond will likely be getting playing time in this game, so we very likely won’t be able to see if the starters can put together four quarters.
In that case, let’s look for some of the young players, especially the linebackers (Ryan Shazier, Curtis Grant) to make an impact, giving us all a nice view of the future.
Against the Hoosiers, you can roll with just about any scenario.
At the risk of being overconfident, this week is about getting better, dominating and preparing for some bigger challenges down the road (Penn State, Michigan).
Anything less would be a huge disappointment and a huge letdown from the level of play established last week.