The Indiana Hoosiers open up Big Ten play with the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeye. This week we reached out to two Buckeye writers, Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.com and Eric Seger of Elevenwarriors.com. I want to thank both of them for their thoughtful answers and agreeing to do this question and answer. If you would like to see our answers for Eleven Warriors click here.
1. What is going on at the QB position? Is this a case of if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none? Or are they still adjusting to a new coordinator?
ES: I think last weekend's 38-12 victory over Western Michigan answered a multitude of the questions at quarterback, mainly the one regarding if Urban Meyer was going to keep playing both or stick with one. J.T. Barrett entered the game in the fourth quarter, but the game was already decided. So that means Meyer is sticking with Cardale Jones as starter moving forward, which I think was the right move. Barrett might be better for the read-option running game, but Meyer wants to run more of a pro attack while still spreading the field, and Jones' powerful arm is best suited for that. Either way, Meyer had to pick one guy and quit the yo-yoing, which it appears he's done. Also, it was pretty clear Barrett, Jones and even Meyer and offensive coordinator Ed Warinner were still getting used to Tim Beck through the non-conference slate. That should only improve as the season progresses.
AG: Well, Urban Meyer and his staff met after the Northern Illinois game a couple of weeks ago and made the decision that they were going to go with one guy as their starter and not look back. They determined that guy would be Cardale Jones and ahead of the Western Michigan game, Jones took 90% of the first team reps in practice and was the only guy to play quarterback until the game was out of hand and subs came in the fourth quarter.
Many of the issues Ohio State faced in the first three games of the season were an issue of the new offensive staff needing to get on the same page. The Buckeyes lost offensive coordinator Tom Herman this off-season and promoted Ed Warinner to handle those duties in addition to coaching the offensive line. They brought in Tim Beck to coach quarterbacks and help Warinner call the games, but through three games things were a mess, as Warinner was calling the game from the field (versus the box), as you can't coach the big guys up front from the sky.
This week, OSU had Beck calling in the plays from up top, where you can see the defense better, and OSU took a step forward on offense, looking a lot more fluid out there. Jones threw for 288 yards and 2 TDs, which was a solid day. It could have been better though as he under-threw three or four deep balls, one of which went for a pick. Jones will be working this week on shifting his weight better and throwing the ball a bit sooner to fix that, but long story, short, he is now Ohio State's quarterback unless he is beaten out by Barrett in practice, similar to how any other starting job on the field is handled.
2.There are a couple strength on strength match-ups in the game, mainly the IU O-line against the OSU D-Line, what do you see as the key match-up for this game?
ES: I think the Indiana offensive line against Ohio State's defensive line is going to be the biggest key in the game. Indiana scores in bunches, and frankly will hang with the Buckeyes because of it. If the Hoosiers and Jordan Howard find success on the ground like Western Michigan last week, it could be a long day for the Ohio State defense. Joey Bosa leads a solid defensive front that's shown to have more depth this year than in the first three seasons of Meyer's tenure, but Indiana's experienced big guys will do their part to control the line of scrimmage and, ultimately, the clock.
AG: Indiana loves to run the ball, and has the NCAA's leading rusher in Jordan Howard. There's no doubt they'd love to be able to move the chains on the ground, and as you said, the IU offensive line against the OSU defensive line should be the key match-up to watch.
Western Michigan had a lot of success running the ball through the interior of the Ohio State defensive line, where the Buckeyes had to fill the gap left by Michael Bennett, who is now in the NFL. Tommy Schutt, along with two or three others, has done a nice job filling the void thus far this year, but the Broncos were able to have success running up the middle, which is something the Hoosiers would love to do if they can. Urban Meyer said that weakness shown this past week will be a point of emphasis in practice, so it will be interesting to see what adjustments are made.
For IU it will also be important to protect the passer. Joey Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, and Tyquan Lewis have been very good at defensive end thus far this season. Keeping Nate Sudfeld's uniform clean will go a far way in giving IU a chance to win this game.
One more bonus match-up to watch is the OSU offensive line against the IU defensive line. If the Bucks can run the ball at will, it's going to be game over.
3. What is the biggest mismatch for both teams?
ES: I think it has to be each team's respective running back against the opposition's front seven. Ohio State's not seen a back like Howard yet this season, and 2014 MAC Player of the Year Jarvion Franklin averaged nearly six yards per carry last Saturday. He mainly found success right up the gut of Ohio State's defense, and if the Broncos hadn't fallen behind and needed to throw the ball, probably would have had an even bigger day.
The same goes for Indiana's defense. The Hoosiers non-conference schedule is hardly murderer's row and Ezekiel Elliott looked to regain some of the traction that we witnessed toward the end of last season on Saturday against Western Michigan. He's tallied more than 100 yards in each of his last nine games, quite a streak all things considered. Ohio State's offensive line appears to be gelling as well, so this game could be a showcase of running backs.
AG: For Ohio State, I'd probably say the OSU receivers going against the IU secondary. 58 percent of the first downs given up by IU have come through the air, while opponents have racked up over 360 passing yards per game against Indiana, with an impressive 14 yards per catch. The Buckeyes' receivers haven't done anything ridiculous yet this season, but the passing game should be strong with Cardale Jones at the helm (much fewer QB runs with Jones behind center) and the Buckeyes' roster having many playmakers, including future NFL receiver Mike Thomas, as well as Braxton Miller, Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson, and others.
For Indiana, I would say the interior offensive line against whoever plays next to Adolphus Washington at defensive tackle. The previous questions gives more background on this, but if you're going to pick somewhere on the OSU roster to attack, this would probably be it. The other place to look would be nickel, when OSU is in that package. The Buckeyes are missing Damon Webb to suspension, so IU should look to attack Marshon Lattimore and Cameron Burrows when they're on the field.
4. Since 2011, it has seemed that this game has been closer than usual. Is this OSU overlooking IU or maybe IU playing up to their competition? Or both?
ES: I think it's a little of both. For example, I think Ohio State was looking ahead to Michigan the following week when Indiana came to Columbus in late November. The Hoosiers were 3-7 and decimated by injury at quarterback, so the Buckeyes probably took them lightly for the first 40 minutes of the game. Luckily for Ohio State, Jalin Marshall rose from the ashes and put to bed any hopes of an upset. On the other hand, I think Indiana's always played its hardest against Ohio State for whatever reason. The Hoosiers always seem to have two or three really good athletes (see Shane Wynn, Nate Sudfeld, Tevin Coleman, etc.) but it's usually never enough to pull off the upset. Regardless, the Hoosiers always get up high to play the Buckeyes.
AG: Well, I think it's been a little of everything. First off, I think Kevin Wilson's offenses have been good, not to mention Tevin Coleman is a "grown man", so credit goes to IU there. Wilson also had his team up and ready to play those games.
That said, until last year when Chris Ash came in as defensive coordinator, and even then things weren't perfect, the OSU defense was a mess, and the Buckeyes were lucky their offense was good enough to outscore the Hoosiers.
I do also think it was easy for Ohio State teams to overlook Indiana, which could have contributed to slower starts. This year, I don't think that will be the case, though, as the Buckeyes know they're not where they need to be as a team, which should serve as motivation to go out and make things happen.
5.OSU has always travelled well to Bloomington. Will this be one of the bigger OSU contingents we see down there in recent history?
ES: Yes. I was at the Ohio State-Indiana game in Bloomington in 2012 and the stadium had some empty spaces. I don't expect that to be the case Saturday. It's a quick drive across one state line to Indiana's campus from Columbus and the fact that Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the country and defending national champions makes me believe there's sure to be plenty of Buckeye fans in attendance.
AG: As you said, Memorial Stadium is always filled with Ohio State fans for this game, as the "O-H-I-O" cheer can often be heard around the stadium. You'd like to think with the best start in program history since 1990 that the Hoosier faithful would come out for this one, but if history teaches us anything, it's that the Buckeyes will dominate the crowd once again.
6. Predictions? Does IU cover the 21-point spread?
ES: I think the Hoosiers cover, but think it will be due to some late touchdowns like in recent years. I've got Ohio State taking this one, 45-28.
AG: The Hoosiers (see; Howard) will hit a couple of big plays on the Buckeyes to keep things relatively close, but I'm not sure they'll have an answer for Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones, and the rest of the Ohio State offense. I think Indiana covers the 21 point spread, but I see Ohio State taking another step forward in looking like we all expect them to, winning by a score of 41-24.