Ohio State continued their winning ways in frigid conditions last weekend against Minnesota. The 31-24 win over the Gophers was the cherry on top after upsetting a top ten Michigan State team the previous week. Because of the recent play of quarterback J.T. Barrett and the overall improvement of the team (now sitting at 9-1) since the loss to Virginia Tech in the second week of the season, the College Football Playoff committee appears to be willing to give the Buckeyes a second look, assuming they win out. Now sitting at sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings, Ohio State has its eyes set on the Big Ten championship game, but they'll need to finish the season strong against Indiana and arch rival Michigan.
Indiana hasn't had the season they had exactly hoped for, but that doesn't mean the Hoosiers aren't willing to play spoiler to a team trying to make a statement to the nation and committee. Indiana is currently on a five-game losing streak, with losses against Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, and Rutgers. Earlier this season, the Hoosiers upset Missouri, who was No. 18 at the time they played. For the season, though, Indiana remains at 3-7 overall with two games remaining against Ohio State and Purdue.
As the Buckeyes continue their path to the Big Ten championship, we give you five things to look for on Saturday afternoon:
J.T. Barrett facing the hype
The eyes of the country are now officially taking notice of the redshirt freshman quarterback who has produced a monster statistical season in his first year as starting quarterback. Piling up multiple weekly awards and being named semifinalist to several prestigious annual awards, Barrett is now being considered as a Heisman Trophy contender. Coach Meyer has even backed the young quarterback up, stating that he's playing extremely well and has for much of the year.
In his first season, Barrett has thrown for 2,356 yards and 29 touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes. In addition to his aerial attack, Barrett has contributed 771 yards and nine touchdowns on 136 carries coming from the ground. With all of the attention and hype Barrett is now receiving, he'll have a chance to showcase his talents even more against a pretty awful defensive team when playing Indiana this Saturday. Look for Barrett to have yet another solid week of play.
Indiana has some talent
Don't be fooled by their record as a team or even their statistics. Indiana has some serious weapons that the Ohio State defense will need to key in on. At the top of that list would be running back Tevin Coleman, who has rushed for 1,678 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and wide receiver Shane Wynn, who has 43 receptions for 568 yards and three touchdowns.
Coleman, especially, will be the player that co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash will want to be wary of. Second only to Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon in rushing yards in the country this season, Coleman provides a true test for the defensive line and linebackers to contain. Look for Ohio State to key in on the run early to take away any chance of potential momentum for Coleman and the Hoosiers.
Big day for Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott is just 46 yards away from becoming only the second Urban Meyer-coached running back to have 1,000 yards during a season. The other running back came last year from Carlos Hyde, and now coach Meyer will most likely get Elliott over the 1,000-yard mark in the first half of Saturday afternoon's contest. Indiana trends downward once it comes to the defensive units and the Hoosiers are allowing 173 yards per game on the ground.
With Elliott averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season, Ohio State should have no trouble running between the tackles and bull-rushing their way to victory, if need be. Expect offensive coordinator Tom Herman to set Elliott up for a big day, as the running back has had a solid season and just missed another 100-yard game against Minnesota.
While it won't be like the extreme conditions the Buckeyes met in Minneapolis last weekend against Minnesota, Ohio State should still be prepared to brave some cold temperatures and some precipitation on Saturday afternoon against Indiana. Last week, Ohio State turned the ball over more times than anyone would have liked to and the game remained closer than it should have been because of it.
This week, expect the Buckeyes to emphasize protecting the ball and making sure it stays with the home team at all times. Jalin Marshall received harsh criticism following the win over Minnesota for his costly turnovers, but has responded in the best way possible. Marshall was seen practicing receiving punts during a recent snowy day at Ohio State to prepare himself for the weather conditions.
Win and you're in
With a win over Indiana, Ohio State would secure a spot in the Big Ten championship game, representing the Big Ten East as division champions. After upsetting Michigan State in East Lansing, the Buckeyes took sole control over the division and has continued to win their games. With Indiana the lone team in the Big Ten East remaining on the schedule, Ohio State is focused on taking the Hoosiers down.
Playing in the 'Shoe, the Buckeyes are heavy favorites (and would be if they were playing at Indiana as well) and should come out on top, setting up another big game with Michigan to end the regular season. From there, Ohio State will most likely end up meeting Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.