Ohio State's next opponent has a starting running back that rushed for over 300 yards last weekend and is second in the FBS in total rushing yards. The team overall is 11th in rushing yards per game. They also beat the current SEC East champion, Missouri.
While that's seemingly a pretty darn good resume, the Indiana Hoosiers are 3-7 and 0-6 in the Big Ten, and Tevin Coleman's 300 yard rushing effort came in a 22-point loss. Just about the only thing that's gone right this year for Kevin Wilson is his running game. Indiana was known as a passing team in previous years, but a shoulder injury to Nate Sudfeld derailed the offense (so, kudos to the offensive staff for getting Coleman some running room despite alternating two freshmen at quarterback.
In the twelve statistical comparisons below, the Buckeyes have the advantage in all but three categories. Two of those three give the Hoosiers an advantage: Offensive Rushing S&P+ (rushing efficiency) and Adjusted Line Yards. The blueprint for a Hoosier upset is there, but it's very improbable (the Vegas line has moved to Ohio State -34.5) -- run Tevin Coleman and hope for big plays against the only chink in the Buckeye defense's armor.
Indiana on offense
|Adj. Line Yards||11||78|
|Adj. Sack Rate||70||19|
Indiana's offense is weird. The Hoosiers are mediocre-to-terrible in every major offensive statistical category until you scroll down to rushing efficiency (Rushing S&P+) and the offensive line's ability to run block (Adjusted Line Yards). Unlike most efficient running teams like Georgia Tech, Auburn, and Ohio State, the Hoosiers are surprisingly terrible converting third downs, averaging a 29.5% conversion rate this season (sixth to last in the country).
The drop between S&P+ and FEI is because of the poor third down conversion rate and a poor red zone touchdown percentage (57%). Passing downs in particular have been a struggle for the Hoosiers -- and so stringing together drives has been too -- but against Rutgers last week, standard downs were more the issue. The Hoosiers averaged 8.2 yards to go on third downs even with Tevin Coleman rushing for 300 yards. Essentially, the Hoosiers can sporadically produce big rushing plays and little else on offense -- otherwise the Hoosiers have been susceptible to sacks (70th in Adjusted Sack Rate), predictable (running on 2/3 of standard downs), and unable to pass (100th in Passing S&P+).
Indiana's leading receiver, Shane Wynn, is worth mentioning both because he was an Ohio State target at one point and because he is a solid receiver. Wynn averages 13.2 yards per reception and has over twice as many receptions as the second-leading receiver on the team.
The Buckeyes' biggest defensive weakness is obviously against the run. Even though Minnesota's Mitch Leidner struggled passing against the Buckeye secondary, David Cobb found seams for big plays every so often. That's the concern against Tevin Coleman and the Hoosiers. Even though Indiana has a poor explosiveness score (73rd in IsoPPP), most of that is due to how bad the passing game is. The run game is tied with TCU at 18th in the country for runs of 10+ yards, and 24th in runs of 20+ yards (they're ranked 119th in passes of 10+ yards). So you definitely get the sense that even though Indiana is poor on offense, they match up very well with the Buckeyes' defensive weaknesses, so I could absolutely see the Hoosiers scoring on a few long touchdown runs.
Obviously the key will be in preventing cut back lanes, not letting Coleman break contain on the outside, and gang tackling him once the first defender is in the area. I can see Raekwon McMillian getting significant playtime this week due to his ability to cover sideline to sideline.
Ohio State on offense
|Adj. Line Yards||76||3|
|Adj. Sack Rate||83||85|
You likely don't need to hear too much about this matchup. The Buckeyes offense has grown to be one of the best in the country, especially on a per-play basis. The Hoosiers are almost the exact opposite of that -- mediocre-to-poor in every statistical area. The biggest weakness is in the pass game, so it's looking like J.T.'s chance to put up some gaudy numbers and really solidify his position as a Heisman-hopeful.
Indiana is worst in allowing explosive plays and in defending the pass. The combination of those two weaknesses (defending explosive pass plays) is the most obvious weak point for the Hoosiers. They have allowed 106 passes of 10+ yards this season (111th in the country). Expect to see Herman dial up plenty of short passes to Jalin Marshall and Michael Thomas (with the occasional Devin Smith play action bomb), and just pray he avoids the low-percentage throws to Corey Smith this time.
Otherwise, there's not too much else to say here. The Buckeyes will score, and they will score a lot. Even if Tevin Coleman breaks Melvin Gordon's single-game rushing record (he won't), the Buckeyes could likely mount a comeback against that defense.
Intangibles and my prediction
It's hard to see Indiana's motivation for this game other than the chance to knock off a top opponent. The Hoosiers won't be going bowling, so they're not fighting for bowl eligibility. They're playing at Ohio State, so there's no home field advantage either. The only intangible edge I can give to the Hoosiers would be if the Buckeyes underestimate their opponent and are looking ahead to The Game.
The Buckeyes will win comfortably, but Tevin Coleman does have the ability to take away any Buckeye style points. If the Buckeyes can show some improvement in run defense, then it's easy to imagine a runaway victory here instead.