Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to establish a new program record for consecutive wins, the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes play host to the Indiana Hoosiers this Saturday in the penultimate game of the 2013 regular season.
Indiana opened the campaign like gangbusters, scoring 73 points in a rout of FCS foe Indiana State on Aug. 29. For the most part, the offensive production has kept coming, although the wins have certainly become less frequent. As it stands, the Hoosiers sit at 4-6 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten, and they've recorded just one victory (52-35 vs. Illinois on Nov. 9) in their last five games. Indiana was hammered at Wisconsin last Saturday, 51-3.
Ohio State has run off 22 straight victories to match the school record set by teams from 1967-69, and the streak is also tops in the nation at the moment. The Buckeyes have never lost with Urban Meyer as their head coach, and with a win over the Hoosiers, they will claim their second straight Leaders Division title and secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game to be played on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
Ohio State has won 17 straight in the series with Indiana to claim a 68-12-5 advantage all-time. The last Hoosier victory was a 41-7 rout of the Buckeyes in Bloomington back in 1988.
The Hoosiers took it on the chin in their recent trip to Wisconsin, falling to the Badgers by 48 points. Indiana's school-record streak of 10 straight games of scoring 28 or more points came to an end, and there certainly wasn't much to praise from the Hoosiers offense, as it generated just 224 total yards. Nate Sudfeld completed only 9-of-22 passes for 99 yards with an INT, and Kofi Hughes had four grabs for 60 yards. Cody Latimer tallied five catches for 42 yards, while Stephen Houston ran for 61 yards on 15 carries.
The Indiana defense was steam rolled to the tune of 676 total yards, with the bulk of those coming on the ground as the Badgers came up just 10 yards shy of matching the school record by churning out 554 on the day. Wisconsin averaged 11.1 ypc, and totaled six TDs on the ground against an IU defense that was on the field for nearly 38 minutes. Clyde Newton paced the Hoosiers with 14 tackles, but the unit as a whole did not record a turnover and had only one sack.
Sudfeld is a 60 percent passer who averages 228.1 ypg with 19 TDs and nine INTs, and Latimer has been far and away his favorite target with 60 grabs for 926 yards and eight scores. Hughes and Shane Wynn both have more than 500 receiving yards, and they've combined for 13 receiving TDs. Tevin Coleman is just 42 yards away from 1,000 yards for the season, and he has scored 12 TDs in averaging 7.3 ypc. However, Coleman has been hobbled by an ankle injury, and is listed as questionable for this contest.
While the offense has done its part in putting up nearly 40 ppg (39.1), the defense has let the team down repeatedly by allowing nearly the same (38.8 ppg). Foes have used the run to maximum effectiveness, amassing 251.1 ypg and scoring 30 TDs, while the pass defense hasn't fared much better in permitting 283.7 ypg and 18 scores. David Cooper, Greg Heban and Mark Murphy each have in excess of 70 tackles to pace the unit, which has been credited with only six INTs and 14 turnovers in all.
OSU's Meyer is well aware of the challenges facing a team as dangerous as Indiana, particularly after last year's meeting between the two turned into a shootout.
"This team can score points in bunches. We got to control the clock, control the time. They scored a good amount of points on Michigan State, number one defense I think it might be in the country," he continued, "Very good team, very good players, well coached. We have to really focus this week on facing a very potent offense."
The Buckeyes used a bruising ground assault to claim a comfortable victory at Illinois last weekend, not only extending their own lengthy winning streak, but also saddling the Fighting Illini with their 20th straight conference loss in the process. Carlos Hyde rushed for 246 yards and four TDs, while Braxton Miller added 184 yards and two additional scores for an Ohio State offense that finished with 591 total yards, averaging 8.2 yards per play. Miller completed only 13-of-29 passes for 150 yards, but tossed a pair of scoring strikes, one each going to Corey Brown and Hyde.
The OSU defense permitted 420 yards to the Illini, but posted six sacks, one of which resulted in a safety, and came up with a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned 63 yards for a TD by Bradley Roby. Ryan Shazier continued his outstanding season by recording 16 tackles, 11 being solo efforts, and he was credited with a sack for a safety. C.J. Bennett finished with 14 stops, and he too had a pick, while Joey Bosa notched 2.5 sacks.
Bosa is nursing a sore neck and his status for this clash is questionable.
Ohio State has been extremely productive on both sides of the ball this season, scoring 49.4 ppg while allowing just 18.8 ppg. Yardage figures come in at 536.9 ypg for, and 322.5 ypg against. With Miller now healthy and running the show, it's a matter of pick your poison if you're the opposition, as he is hitting the mark on 68 percent of his passes for 183.2 ypg with 17 TDs and only three INTs, while also adding 594 yards and three scores on the ground. Hyde is close to cracking the 1,000-yard mark as well, currently sitting at 947 yards and he has 11 rushing TDs, and two more via the pass. Jordan Hall has found the end zone eight times on 79 rush attempts. As for the receiving corps, Brown and Smith lead the way with a combined 87 grabs, 1,148 yards and 15 TDs.
The Buckeyes have really clamped down on the run, yielding a mere 92.6 ypg and only five TDs. Shazier has made 88 total stops, which is 32 more than his closest teammate, and he also leads the club in TFL (14.5) and forced fumbles (three). Noah Spence has logged 7.5 of the team's whopping 32 sacks, while Roby and Doran Grant have three picks each.
Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson spoke recently about what his team is likely to face in this matchup against the undefeated Buckeyes.
"I think they're [OSU] going to run the ball a little bit more optionally than we are because of the running threat at quarterback. But I think they've really involved their passing game and taken shots down the field, and some high percentage play with really good players. It's a very good offensive line."