Friday, October 12, 2012

No. 8 Ohio State vs. Indiana—5 Things To Watch For

By Luke Pashke—BlockONation.com Featured Contributor

After a slate of Top 25 matchups, the Buckeyes are in store for a change of pace this week against a 2-3 Indiana team.

That being said, the Hoosiers did play Michigan State tough this past week so they may not be quite the slouch we thought they were, though they certainly aren't Nebraska or Michigan, either.

I understand that it's difficult to get excited about a seemingly gimme, in-conference game, but there are a few things that you should keep your eye on, which may give you a reason to enthusiastically watch this game.

Progression of the Passing Game

Following the Nebraska game, it's clear that this team can run the ball effectively at anytime.

Braxton Miller and company erupted for 371 yards rushing at 7.7 yards per rush, while only managing to throw for a mere 127 yards and 7 completions.

Now, granted, there's no reason to throw the ball when you're consistently driving down the field on the ground, but sooner or later this team will have to prove they can move the ball through the air.

When watching the Indiana game, pay close attention to how Miller and his receivers fare in the passing game. Hopefully for OSU, playing against a weaker opponent can build confidence in their passing game, allowing the Buckeyes to develop a more two-dimensional offense.

Who's Playing Linebacker?

Seemingly, the Buckeyes' linebacker crew could have their own reserved section in a hospital wing.

Ryan Shazier has been struggling through a knee issue all season and now senior linebacker, Etienne Sabino, is out for the next month or so with a leg injury he received this past weekend.

With Sabino out, freshman LB Josh Perry filled in against Nebraska. Along with Perry, fellow freshman linebacker Camren Williams saw some playing time against the Cornhuskers, although it was fairly short lived.

It will be interesting to see which young LB this coaching staff trusts to fill in for Sabino. Whoever it is, they better take advantage, because this team is chock-full of hungry, talented, young linebackers.

Utilization of the Tight Ends

This past Saturday against Nebraska, the Buckeyes finally used their tight ends effectively in the passing game. To my surprise, Stoneburner was not one of these tight ends, but nonetheless it was great to see.

Heuerman hauled in a pair of big catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. Even Nick Vannett had a 32 yard reception.

A tight end can be a quarterback's best friend, and heading into the season I expected this offense to utilize the tight ends on the regular. Through five games this wasn't the case, but this past Saturday Miller seemed to be looking the TE's way much more often.

Pay close attention to see if this utilization of the tight ends was a blip or a trend. Hopefully it's a trend. This offense is much better when the tight ends get involved.

Tackling on Defense and Special Teams

The Silver Bullets have progressively improved their tackling throughout the season, but they still aren't quite there yet. This past weekend they missed about five tackles on a touchdown run by Taylor Martinez.

The poor tackling can't continue to be a trend.

Their problem has been not wrapping up the opponent. Anytime the Buckeyes have gone for highlight tackles or strips they've looked foolish and hurt the team.

Against the Hoosiers, look for the defense to tackle fundamentally and cut down on the number of broken tackles, because against better teams those type of mistakes just can't happen.

Braxton Miller's Heisman Hype and Health

There is no doubt that Braxton Miller is the main attraction of any Ohio State football game.

The sophomore QB accounts for more than 70 percent of the Buckeyes' offense and has emerged as a serious contender for the prized Heisman Trophy.

Against Indiana, Miller just needs to pad his stats as much as possible and remain healthy.

Am I the only one who constantly holds their breath on every single one of Miller's runs?

I doubt it, because without No. 5, who knows where the Buckeyes would be at this point.

While a "Geno Smith vs. Baylor" performance would be nice, as long as Miller stays out of harm's way while adding a few scores and highlight plays, his Heisman hype will only increase.




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