The Lantern sports editors share their insight on what fans should know about this weekend’s road matchup against Illinois.
1. The quest for 1,000 yards
Senior running back Carlos Hyde is on the precipice of history. Hyde only needs 53 yards in Ohio State’s remaining games to become the first running back coached by Urban Meyer to gain 1,000 yards on the ground in a season. Since Big Ten play began, Hyde has been averaging 151 yards on the ground a game, including going for a career-high 246 yards against Illinois last weekend. He tied for the third highest total in Buckeye history, and now faces off against another bottom five run defense in Indiana, which ranks 122nd in the nation. Last weekend, the Hoosiers gave up 554 yards on the ground to Wisconsin, so Hyde will be looking to have a huge day.
2. Senior Day focus
This season has been one of outside distractions for OSU. Two of its top players, Hyde and redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby, were suspended for parts of the year because of off-the-field issues. Not to mention the BCS race, which has the Buckeyes slowly slipping out of third place in the BCS rankings — further and further from a national title spot. Saturday’s game is Senior Day for nine Buckeye starters, providing yet another distraction for the team. If OSU loses focus, they could be at risk of falling behind to a talented Indiana offense, ranked 16th in the nation with 496.8 yards per game.
3. Injured Buckeyes
Meyer said Wednesday a slew of Buckeyes who either missed the Illinois game or left it because of injury — sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry, junior linebacker Curtis Grant, freshman defensive lineman Joey Bosa and redshirt-senior left tackle Jack Mewhort — are good to go for Saturday. OSU jumped out to a 28-0 lead against the Illini, but Illinois was able to hang around for the majority of the contest, even cutting the lead to 12 in the fourth. Having four starters back will surely help OSU, particularly on defense, but keeping an eye on them will be necessary in case their injuries resurface.
4. Last game in the ‘Shoe, B1G implications
Although OSU is scheduled to visit Michigan next weekend, it can clinch a second consecutive Leaders Division Title and a spot in the Big Ten Championship game with a victory against Indiana. Everyone knows about the win streak since Meyer came to Columbus, but a win Saturday will finally earn OSU something substantial. Not to say an undefeated season last year wasn’t noteworthy, but running the slate again this year will reap the benefits of getting a chance to play in Lucas Oil Stadium Dec. 7. A win against the Hoosiers will finalize that. The Buckeyes should have a refreshed focus with that in mind, so a close game is not likely.
5. No. 4 Baylor against No. 10 Oklahoma State
Although the Buckeyes are focused on taking down the Hoosiers Saturday, there is another game just as important for OSU. The Baylor Bears are closing the gap on the Buckeyes in the BCS rankings, and will likely jump OSU with a victory against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have jumped into the top 10 of the BCS, after only losing once this season to West Virginia, 30-21, Sept. 28. It is set to be the Bears’ toughest test of the year and could have huge implications for the Buckeyes in their quest for a national title.