Jim Tressel talked about an upstart opponent and the wind conditions following last weeks close shave against Illinois. Ohio State almost got toasted in Champaign, 24-13.
Illinois had two weeks to prepare for the Buckeyes. Ron Zook took the first week to work on technique, and getting better, then he took the second week and concentrated on his gameplan for Ohio State. That gameplan - stop the run. Illinois defenders Luiget and Martez Wilson put the stranglehold on Ohio State's running game. The Buckeyes did have 213 yards on the ground, but 101 of those yards came on two long runs from Pryor in the first half. It marked the second week in-a-row that Ohio State featured Dan Herron, and not Brandon Saine at Rb. Saine has rushed for just 25 yards on 11 carries in the last two games. The Nation is getting a little impatient, not just with the Rb's, but with the return of Jim Tressel's vanilla offense.
Sure, there was wind in Champaign; about 20-25 mph. Is that the excuse for running a dive play on 3rd and 13, in the middle of the field, up by less than a touchdown? The play call incensed Terrelle Pryor in the huddle. He flexed both arms and made fists, pleading to the sideline to let him throw the ball, to no avail. Pryor later injured his quad on another running play. His back-up, Joe Bauserman, proved more than inneffective with 1 yard passing and an interception. The fans want to see back-up Qb Ken Guiton, and more of the third and fourth-string backs, Jordan Hall, and Jaamal Berry. Berry is averaging nearly 12 yards a carry, and Hall is another quick back who has chemistry with Terrelle Pryor, dating back to their days in Jeanette, Pa. It could be the defenses loading the box, or Saine's inability to run with the conviction and determination that he did last season, but one thing is certain: Ohio State needs to be able to run the ball even when opponents know it's coming, and right now, they're struggling.
To make things worse; the injury bug has bitten, and she packs quite a punch. Starting strong safety CJ Barnett had already been lost for the season. LB Andrew Sweat, DE Nathan Williams, and QB Terrelle Pryor have been playing through injuries. CB's Chekwa and Torrence have done the same. TE Jake Stoneburner is still nursing a high ankle sprain, but could return this week. Starting Nickle-back/Star Tyler Moeller was lost for the season against Illinois with a torn pectoral muscle. Glenville product and true freshman Christian Bryant will be asked to fill his spot. Moeller led the team in tackles-for-loss, had two sacks, and an interception. Bryant and the Buckeye secondary will be thrown into the fire Saturday.
Ben Chappel was 45 of 64 for 480 yards last week in the Hoosiers 42-35 loss to Michigan. Chappel is on pace for 4,100 passing yards, and 36 touchdowns. He has two dangerous receivers in Demarlo Belcher, and Tandon Doss. Doss missed the first two weeks of the season with a groin/leg injury, but is clearly one of the best WR's in the entire country. We're seeing some shifting of power in the BigTen, and the Hoosiers are slowly but surely climbing their way up the conference power rankings.
Minnesota is clearly the worst team in the BigTen, but even they have shown the ability to play tough. The Gophers had a close game against USC, and nearly upset undefeated Northwestern on Saturday, 28-29. Illinois played better than they had in previous years against rival Missouri, beat an underrated Northern Illinois team, and then of course there was Saturday's scare versus Ohio State. Because of Indiana and Illinois' improvement, the BigTen may have the best parity of any BCS conference.
Gerry Dinardo and the BigTen network were the first to notice Indiana's improvement in the preseason. The panel seemed convinced that the Hoosiers had more talent, and appeared faster than usual. There is depth at WR and RB, and Indiana's OL is playing better too. Ohio State does rank 18th in the country in pass defense, but that number is bolstered by their 8 interceptions. The Bucks are giving up 161.8 passing yards per game, and now face the best passing team they've seen all year, with a rebuilt and youthful defensive backfield.
So here sits little ol' Indiana smashed in-between BigTen road games against Illinois and Wisconsin. Unassuming, and honestly, dangerous. The Buckeyes have won 15 straight versus the Hoosiers - a fact well-known to Head Coach Bill Lynch. The Hoosiers are looking for more than just a victory against Ohio State - they're looking for their second Bowl game in four years.