COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — No. 5 Ohio State moved up one spot in the AP Poll during its week after Iowa was upset by unranked Purdue. The Buckeyes are well aware this week’s road game against Indiana (2-4) at 7:30 could be a trap game after the way the Hoosiers compete with OSU last season.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead but gave up 28 second-half points and escaped with a 42-35 win. Last year’s game is still on the minds of this year’s team, which is favored by 20 points in Bloomington.
Here are three things to watch for in this week’s night game between the Buckeyes and Hoosiers.
Handle the blitz
Tom Allen’s squad comes up with a myriad of ways to blitz the quarterback. But what separates IU from other teams is how often they send pressure. It’s a high-risk, high-reward game plan and there haven’t been many rewards for the Hoosiers who rank dead last in the Big Ten in sacks.
The good news for Ohio State is that the pass protection for Stroud, who ranks second in the country in passer rating, has been superb. The Buckeyes have only allowed eight sacks this year, second-best in the Big Ten, and only gave up one sack to a Maryland team that entered the game ranked first in the conference in getting to the QB.
“Maryland I was nervous in that game because they led the Big Ten in sacks. Good pass rushing team, pass rush was excellent and those guys picked it up,” offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. “They pass a test like that they get a little more confident.”
And when the offensive line is confident, Stroud is confident as well and is free to do his thing which is averaging 340 passing yards a game, fourth-best in the country, and throw the eight-most touchdowns in the nation despite missing a game this season.
Jack Tuttle has taken over at quarterback after Michael Penix Jr. suffered a shoulder injury during IU’s 24-0 loss to Penn State. Tuttle only threw 12 passes in that game, so the junior only has one game under his belt as a starter.
The Buckeyes are primed to take advantage of an inexperienced quarterback making his second start this season and fourth of his career. Against No. 10 Michigan State, Tuttle had 54% completion rate and only threw for 188 yards despite 52 pass attempts. Part of Ohio State’s new and improved defense has been showing quarterbacks different looks at the line of scrimmage and moving defensive backs and linebackers into different zones to keep opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators guessing.
“I think we’re in a lot better place than we were at the beginning of the season,” coach Ryan Day said. “The last week or so I’ve kind of stepped away [from the defense] a little bit to allow them to operate.”
Matt Barnes and Co. should have a field day exploiting Tuttle and maybe add to their four-game pick six streak. The most important thing for the defense is keeping track of receiver Ty Fryfogle who tore up the Buckeyes last year to the tune of seven catches for 218 yards and three touchdowns.
Look who’s back
More bad news for Tuttle. Ohio State returns three starters on defense this week: cornerback Cam Brown, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and defensive end Tyreke Smith.
Smith has missed Ohio State’s last three games but returned to practice fulltime this week and is ready to make an impact his senior year.
“He’s had a good week of practice and I’m looking forward to seeing him out there,” Day said. “This is important for him. I know he wants to finish his career the right way and play really well for us and produce at a high level.”
Meanwhile, Garrett left the Buckeyes game against Maryland and wasn’t able to put any pressure on his left leg but he’s healthy and will be a difference maker as always. Finally, cornerback Cam Brown, who’s been dealing with a head injury this season, has been cleared to play bolstering the Buckeyes defensive backfield, which has been led by the play of freshman Denzel Burke and sophomore Ronnie Hickman.