Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The Indiana Hoosiers have a shot at the improbable on Saturday afternoon. They have the opportunity to play the top-ranked Buckeyes at home in from of a sold out Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers may be 21.5-point underdogs, but they have played the Buckeyes well and have a real shot at history. So what exactly does IU need to do to score the upset win over Ohio State? Let's find out.
1. Get The Running Game Churning
The Hoosiers feature the nation's leading rusher in Jordan Howard who has run for 675 yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. There is no doubt that Howard is the Hoosiers go-to guy out of the backfield, but the Hoosiers do have a quality back-up in Devine Redding. Redding has 65 rushing attempts for 237 yards and three touchdowns and provides Howard with enough of a break to stay fresh without losing too much production.
In order for Indiana to be successful against the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers needs to control the tempo of the game. IU has the ability to run both an up-tempo and a four-minute offense. It is important for the Hoosiers to keep their defense as rested as possible against this high-powered offense. If the Hoosiers can average the 4.6 yards per carry they are on the season, it should go a long way in the effort to come out of Saturday 5-0.
2. Continue to Win The Turnover Battle
Indiana's defense has forced eight turnovers (four fumbles and four interceptions) in the first four games this season, and have cashed them in for 48 points. The offense has been able to hang on to the ball is well only turning it over twice, meaning IU is plus-six in turnover margin. This is a recipe for success and has been one of the main reasons why the Hoosiers are 4-0.
This week the Hoosiers step up in competition facing the Buckeyes, but OSU has some turnover issues of their own. They have given the ball away 10 times in the first third of the season. Turnovers are a great equalizer and the weather is not supposed ideal and both teams could be dealing with wet conditions, so turnovers are probably going to happen. This is one of the few areas where maybe IU has an edge over OSU.
3. Keep Sudfeld Clean
So far this season the Hoosier offensive line has done an outstanding job keeping quarterback Nate Sudfeld upright, allowing just two sacks in the first four games. The protection has allowed Sudfeld to find his receivers down field and complete his passes at a 61.1 percent clip. He has also limited his turnovers to just one interception and one fumble.
Ohio State sports a very good front seven that will have the Indiana line's hands full (but not grabbing) on Saturday. If the Hoosiers can give Sudfeld time in the pocket to find his receivers the IU offense will be multi-dimensional and very difficult to stop.
4. Enjoy The Moment, But Don't Be Overwhelmed
Saturday will be the first time in the Kevin Wilson Era that Memorial Stadium will be sold out. The atmosphere around this contest is going to be electric, there is already a lot of pomp and circumstance around Bloomington. The Hoosiers need to feed off the energy early and just enjoy themselves and play football. They have been in big time atmospheres before, just not at home. It may take a drive or two for the team to settle in, but when they do IU needs to just soak it all in and not be overwhelmed to the point that they are paralyzed by over thinking. They played a nearly perfect road game a week ago, Wilson and his staff need that type of focus this week.
5. Limit The Big Plays
So far this season the Hoosiers have been victim to the big play, although they can make a big play themselves. Saying that IU has to hold OSU to zero big plays is not only unrealistic, but idiotic. However, limiting that number to just five or six plays over 20 yards may just be doable.
Last season the IU's shot at taking down the Buckeyes was blown up by Jalin Marshall's fourth quarter performance. Limiting his touches, as well as wrapping up running backs Ezekiel Eliott and Curtis Samuel will be key to cutting down on explosive plays by that offense.
Finally, the defensive line needs to create the same havoc they caused last week at Wake Forest. Yes, Darius Latham is out. Yes, he was awesome last week. But IU still has playmakers in Nick Mangieri, Ralph Green, and Tegray Scales in the front seven. It is up to those guys to make Cardale Jones uncomfortable and throw off his back foot. If that happens, there will be passes that the IU defenders can pick off.