4 storylines for Indiana’s game vs. No. 1 Ohio State

1. Jordan Howard’s toughest test to date.
The nation’s leading rusher has served as Indiana’s most elite offensive player so far this season, entering today’s game with 675 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Ohio State’s rush defense, meanwhile, has allowed only one touchdown and merely 3.0 yards per carry. But the Buckeyes have also not dealt with a violent and powerful running back like Howard. Although Howard’s running profile doesn’t lend itself to long, explosive runs, the junior has come close to breaking free in recent weeks. If he does so Saturday, it’ll be an impressive feat given that Ohio State is one of only two teams from a Power 5 conference to not allow a rush of 20 yards or more this season.

2. IU is no pushover against Ohio State
This week, Urban Meyer called his team’s 52-49 win over IU in 2012 a “program changer” after the Hoosiers outscored the Buckeyes 22-14 in the fourth quarter. Indiana used a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes to bring the final score to a narrow margin, and Meyer told reporters this week that it was one of the few times he’d ever seen a defense quit playing hard. “That was a problem,” Meyer said. During last year’s game in Columbus, a a 90-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman gave IU a 20-14 lead midway through the third quarter before Ohio State used four straight touchdowns from Jalin Marshall to run away with a 42-27 victory. Ohio State’s average margin of victory over IU during the Kevin Wilson era is 15 points, but the Hoosiers seem to enter this game believing they can play with college football’s top team.

3. The Hoosiers can’t waste possessions.
For all the notoriety Jordan Howard and the IU offense have rightly earned through the first month, the Hoosier offense has yet to author a complete performance. Indiana has wasted drives due to penalties, mistakes and poor playcalling at different points this season. Against the Buckeys, IU can’t afford to lag behind. Indiana needs quarterback Nate Sudfeld at his best, it needs leading receiver Ricky Jones (ankle) to be a full-go and it needs the continued excellence of Howard on the ground. Even all of that may not be enough to beat Ohio State for the first time since 1988, but it would be a good start. For its part, Ohio State is No. 6 in the Football Bowl Subdivision and No. 2 in the Big Ten in total defense (253.3 yards per game).

4. Winning the turnover battle has seldom been more important for IU.
The performance of Indiana’s secondary appears unsustainable over the long haul of conference play, but the Hoosiers have been able to overcome its mistakes and inexperience through takeaways. Indiana shares the Big Ten lead with a plus-six in the turnover margin, and is tied for third with four fumble recoveries and eight takeaways. Indiana has scored 48 points off of the eight turnovers and has recorded at least two takeaways in five of its last six games. Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones has thrown four interceptions this season, and IU simply must capitalize on any mistakes that may come their way.

2 comments

  1. With all the other things the team needs to do to have a chance to win is to win the turn over battle. IU needs to have zero and get as many from OSU as possible.

  2. I have to believe the young DB’s are bubbling with energy for this opportunity. But Miller and Marshall will give them a test, win or lose, they can experience from for their entire future at IU. Lots $.05 again today on D. If so Elliot is the least feared weapon for the D and will try to carry the water just as Howard will for IU. I really think offensively Sudfeld has to have maybe not quite a career day but an outstanding performance for IU to be successful; whereas Jones probably has less need for a stellar game.

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