Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Assuming Ohio State doesn’t suffer a massive upset against Indiana Saturday, what’s an appropriate way to gage the team’s success against an inferior opponent?
If you happen to believe that OSU is a lock to whoop up on the Hoosiers Saturday, evaluate individual performances, as well as the coaching staff’s play calling, to gauge the team’s progress through Week 10 of the season.
For instance, a sign of progress by OSU’s passing offense, ranked last in the Big Ten, would be an increased amount of passing plays by freshman quarterback Braxton Miller. Considering that Indiana’s pass defense is ranked No. 9 in the conference and allows 224 yards per game, Miller ought to complete a high percentage of his passes. Anything less should be concerning for OSU fans.
Defensively, OSU’s fifth-ranked defense in the conference should look to limit Indiana, which comes to Columbus with the No. 7-ranked offense in the Big Ten. If the Hoosiers get into any kind of offensive rhythm on Saturday, it will be safe to say that the Buckeyes’ defense won’t have improved from last Saturday’s win against the Badgers.
Will Jordan Hall be healthy for Saturday’s game? If not, who could fill in for him?
First-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell addressed junior running back and kick returner Jordan’s Hall’s status for the Indiana game during a Thursday press conference, saying Hall was doubtful for the game.
After scoring on a 2-yard run in the third quarter for the Buckeyes, Hall was injured during a 42-yard kick return with 1:10 remaining in last Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. That return helped set up OSU’s game-winning score against the Badgers with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
“I don’t think (Hall) is going to make it,” Fickell said. “I don’t think he’s quite turned the corner with his ankle.”
Fickell said that sophomore receivers Corey “Philly” Brown and Chris Fields could replace Hall as kick returners.
Fields had a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown against Toledo during OSU’s 27-22 win Sept. 10. Fields is also OSU’s second-leading punt returner, with 88 yards on five returns.
Fickell also said that freshman receiver Devin Smith would be an option in the return game. Smith has one punt return for three yards on the year.
Which players on Indiana’s offense could hurt OSU?
Indiana’s offensive attack took a significant hit when senior receiver Damarlo Belcher was dismissed from the team for violating team rules. Belcher had tallied 25 receptions for 286 yards and one touchdown on the season and limits Indiana’s already limited offense.
Sophomore Stephen Houston, the No. 9 back in the Big Ten in terms of statistics, remains though and he is a legitimate running threat for Indiana. Houston is averaging more than five yards per carry and has tallied 577 yards and six touchdowns in 2011.
The Hoosiers’ Tre Roberson joins Miller as an emerging, true-freshman quarterback in the Big Ten. Roberson is Indiana’s leading passer in 2011 having completed 43-of-72 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions. Roberson leads a modest Hoosiers’ passing attack, however.
Sophomore Kofi Hughes, the team’s leading receiver, averages 15 yards per game and has scored two touchdowns in 2011 for Indiana.
Such is life for a 1-8 team that also enters Saturday with an 0-5 record in the Leaders’ Division.
Does Indiana have any chance on Saturday against OSU?
Simply put, there is no way the Hoosiers will come into Ohio Stadium and upset the heavily-favored Buckeyes.
Forget any of OSU’s shortcomings. The fact is that Indiana is in a transition year with first-year head coach Kevin Wilson trying to get a team turned around that has already been eliminated from bowl contention in 2011.
Whatever Indiana’s rallying cry will be on Saturday, whether it be playing for pride or a signature win for its seniors to remember, it won’t be able to cope with a more talented and athletic OSU team that still has its sights set on an appearance in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game and a Leaders Division title.
The Buckeyes will not be denied on Saturday.
Final score prediction: Ohio State 37, Indiana 10