After two highly emotional and exhilarating wins in back-to-back weeks, most of the Buckeye chatter this week has centered around whether or not this will be a “trap game” against the Hoosiers.
Indiana’s high octane passing attack (305.2 yards per game, 20th best in the country) against our erratic second level defense could create problems if the team doesn’t come prepared to play.
The fact that the Hoosiers played tough against Michigan State last week adds fuel to the “trap game” fire.
Throw in some injuries and an evening kickoff and it is easy to see why fans are more concerned than usual (i.e. at all) with playing Indiana this week.
While it is easy to see the factors that might go against the Buckeyes this week, it is also easy to see that Indiana is still Indiana. They have lost their last three games in a row which included dropping one to Ball State to start the slide.
The chances that the Buckeyes lose this weekend are low, but the chances that they play flat and uninspired in a closer than expected victory is relatively high.
It will take a tremendous amount of leadership from the coaches and upperclassman to avoid an uninspired performance. It will be interesting to see how the team meets that challenge and if the performance remains at a high level or reverts back to the first four games.
Outside of the very broad need for an “inspired performance” here are some things that I will be looking for this weekend.
The first thing I will be looking for this week is a fast start on offense. Terrible first quarters have been a problem all season and last weekend was no exception. Despite scoring 63 points in the game, the offense went 3-and-out four straight times to start and didn’t score until the second quarter.
Throw in the concern over a flat performance in the first place and a slow start on offense becomes a very real possibility.
I understand that it sometimes takes a few series to see what the defense is doing and to adjust, but this is Indiana we’re talking about.
I have criticized Braxton Miller relatively harshly in recent weeks over his (in)ability to make the proper reads on the “read option” runs.
That seemed to improve against the Huskers, but I had a lively debate with Eric right here on tBBC about whether or not there was improvement in the reads or if the coaches were just calling different plays that didn’t require a read.
Looking back, I think it is a combination of both.
First, there definitely was improvement over MSU. I don’t think we will play a team as good on D as Michigan State the rest of the season (and certainly not this week). They made the option decisions look particularly bad with their superior play.
Second, I think the reads are a lot easier to make (i.e. you can’t really make a wrong decision) when the offensive line is performing at such a high level- which they have been.
Third, the return of Carlos Hyde was a huge boost to the running game. He needs to continue performing at a high level to take some pressure off of Miller and keep the ground game rolling.
Bottom line: Miller is getting better, the team is getting better and the ground game is dominating which is a great thing.
Attack the Middle
I have also been pushing for the team to attack the middle more over the past several weeks. Thankfully, those passes to the TEs last week were just what the doctor ordered.
Part of the success here is Miller making the right reads (once again) and throwing with confidence. It looks like he is improving in this area as well.
If the Buckeyes can continue mixing in an effective passing game with the ground attack, this offense will be extremely difficult to slow down.
The biggest key will be Miller and the players continuing to grow and become comfortable in the new system, and few teams are better to do that against than Indiana.
I really hope the team doesn’t lay an egg and squander this opportunity to get better.
I honestly don’t have many expectations for the defense other than that they play hard.
With a strong effort the D has the talent to be very disruptive, create turnovers, and make plenty of big plays.
At the same time, they will almost certainly give up some big plays to the other team from time to time.
That is just the nature of the D this year like it or not.
If the offense continues to score points and the defense can at least limit the big plays they give up, I don’t think that will be an issue against the remaining teams on the schedule.
They certainly won’t be playing any offenses as explosive as Nebraska’s again which is a good thing.
One thing that would be very nice to see is some of the younger players stepping up and contributing on the field more (outside of special teams).
Josh Perry is the obvious example this week filling in for the injured Sabino, but there should be plenty of opportunities for other young players to step in and show what they’ve got in the coming weeks.
Consistent high level effort. Limit the mistakes and big plays. Get healthy. Young players stepping up and making an impact.