Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Ohio State first-year head coach Luke Fickell has successfully led the Buckeyes to two straight wins against ranked opponents. This week sees OSU entering a potential, but unlikely, “trap” game against the 1-8 Indiana Hoosiers. Here’s what the Buckeyes must do to improve to 3-2 in the Big Ten.
This is a perfect week to give freshman quarterback Braxton Miller a longer leash. The Buckeyes are facing a defense that averages more than 36 points allowed for the season and 51 points the last four weeks. With such a suspect defense, Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman should open up the playbook for Miller this week and see how the freshman responds.
As always, Daniel “Boom” Herron will need to be the main focus, at least until OSU builds a comfortable lead. The Buckeyes are 20-1 in games, where Herron rushes for 55 yards or more.
The offensive line (J.B. Shugarts) only had one false start penalty against the Badgers, and will need to continue to eliminate penalties altogether as it will be important down the line in bigger games.
Turnovers are usually key in “trap” games, so if Miller or the offense begins turning the ball over, the coaches will need to shorten the leash again. If necessary, OSU should be able to win this game without throwing a pass against the Hoosiers, who have allowed and average of 234.7 yards rushing per game this season.
The defense has the power to single-handedly win the game this week. The biggest key to the defense is avoiding complacency as they did at the end of the Wisconsin game.
Junior defensive tackle John Simon and Johnathan “Big Hank” Hankins should be chomping at the bit to go up against a Hoosier offensive line that has allowed 23 sacks this season. With quarterback pressure comes poor throws and interceptions. The Silver Bullets haven’t scored a touchdown yet this season and this week would be a prime time to change that.
As Fickell noted in his Tuesday press conference, the Hoosiers are young and will battle the entire game. They are aggressive and have nothing to lose. It is up to the defense to contain that aggressiveness and not take their opponent too lightly.
Junior punter Ben Buchanan downed three more punts inside the 20-yard line against Wisconsin to give him 20 punts inside the 20 for the season and 11 punts inside the 10. He has been spectacular all season and will continue to do the same.
Sophomore kicker Drew Basil has not missed a field goal attempt since OSU’s Week 2 win against Toledo and has connected on 10 consecutive tries . He is another beacon of consistency for the Buckeyes.
The kickoff and punt coverage have been stellar as well, as opponents average just 17.7 and 6.1 yards per respective return. They will need to stay the course this week and force the bonus of scoring points on the Hoosier offense.
The coaches need to make sure the team keeps its head in the game. Indiana isn’t a very imposing opponent and may be easy to look past the Hoosiers. With two losses in the Big Ten already and still a good chance at a Big Ten Championship Game appearance, the Buckeyes cannot afford to take anything for granted.
Miller had his coming-out party against the Badgers and is riding a wave of confidence. The coaches should fuel that confidence by opening up the playbook for him. If he doesn’t respond, they can scale it back again. But if there is any game this season in which Miller could afford to make some freshman mistakes in the name of aggressiveness, this is it.