Last year, Indiana lost to Ohio State 52-49. The Hoosiers took little solace in the fact that they scored more than they ever have before against the Buckeyes.
The Scarlet and Gray, meanwhile, took to heart the need to improve their defense. They buckled down, and in their remaining five games, they only gave up an average of 20.4 points/per contest. (Including the Hoosiers, the first 5 BCS-conference opponents OSU faced had posted an average of 29.4 points per game.)
Fast forward to this season, and the Hoosiers again have a prolific offense capable of putting up big numbers, although you might not realize if you watched last week’s 51-3 loss to Wisconsin, which dropped IU to 2-4 in Big Ten play.
It’s important to stress how much of an aberration that was. It ended the school-record streak of 10 games with 28 points or more; it was the first time in almost two years that Indiana failed to score a touchdown; and it was more than 36 points below their season average.
Normally, quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson are leading an effective, quick-strike, fireworks display in cleats. Sudfeld is fourth in the Big Ten in passing yards/game, even though he’s splitting time with Roberson. Roberson is the more mobile of the two, but that being said, he still has 9 passing touchdowns, so he’s certainly capable of throwing the ball.
Indiana, which returned ten of their starters on offense, has five players with more than 1,000 career receiving yards playing together. That’s the first time that’s happened in Big Ten history. Leading the way are Cody Latimer (a Dayton native), Kofi Hughes, and Shane Wynn (a Cleveland native).
Not surprisingly, with a team that likes to throw it around as much as the Hoosiers, it’s not just the receivers getting in on the act. Ted Bolser is a mere 4 catches away from setting the Indiana record for number of receptions by a tight end. (He’s looking to best Bob Stephenson’s 115 from 1978-81).
The Hoosiers don’t rely on their run game quite as much, but their running backs are very capable. Tevin Coleman sets the pace, has a touchdown in every game he’s played this year, and averages 7.3 yards per carry. He was out last week with a sprained ankle. There’s no word yet on his status for the Buckeye game. When he’s not carrying the ball, Stephen Houston usually is.
Also of note regarding the Indiana offense is its pace. Twenty of their scoring drives this season took less than a minute. They typically get plays off in less than 20 seconds.
As for the other side of the ball? Well, they are 114th in the nation in scoring defense. If they end up last in the conference rankings in that category, it will be the third straight time that has happened. They’ve only forced 14 turnovers (96th in the nation), they have just 17 sacks (81st in the nation), and they allow opponents to convert on 46.4% of their third downs (109th in the nation).
On the plus side, defensive back Tim Bennett leads the FBS in passes defended (20) and pass breakups (19), and he’s 33rd in solo tackles (54). Second-team All-Big Ten selection from a year ago, safety Greg Heban has 51 solo tackles.
Finally, when it comes to special teams, kicker Mitch Ewald is 9/9 this year with a long of 50.
Ohio State welcomes in Indiana this Saturday at 3:30, with the game, of course, airing on 97.1 The Fan.