The Buckeyes won a second ugly game in a row -- a game that could hurt the perception of the Buckeyes in the eyes of the Playoff committee, but a record-setting day nonetheless.
Ohio State struggled for most of the game against Indiana because of turnovers and explosive rushing plays. While Barrett has been one of the most efficient and least turnover-prone quarterbacks in the country since the Virginia Tech debacle -- so yesterday's two-interception day was a definite deviation from the norm --Tevin Coleman just solidified what we already knew about the Buckeye defense: they're much, much improved in pass defense, but are still weak against elite running backs.
But before we break down what can be improved during _ichigan Week, let's run through some records and highlights:
- With 107 yards on just 13 carries, Ezekiel Elliott became just Urban's Meyer's second-ever 1,000 running back.
- J.T. Barrett threw for 302 yards and ran for 78, breaking Braxton Miller's record of 3,310 total yards of offense in a season.
- Jalin Marshall not only redeemed himself from last week's fumbles, but accounted for four total touchdowns, including a punt return and three receiving touchdowns. According to ESPN, the last Buckeye to have a receiving and punt return touchdown in the same game was Brian Hartline in 2007.
- Josh Perry had an insane 14 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks on the day.
Turnovers and explosive plays
The Buckeyes lost the turnover margin for the second-straight game, going -2 and allowing six points off of turnovers. Considering that the Buckeyes had three straight drives end in a turnover at the end of the first quarter, it's a testament to the defense that they only allowed two field goals during that span. In fact, the defense was efficient for most of the game, forcing seven (!) three-and-outs from the Indiana offense and allowing just 114 passing yards at 4.2 yards per attempt.
However, explosive plays were detrimental to the Buckeyes' chances at style points. Out of the Hoosiers' 16 drives, five had an explosive drive, and all of those drives ended in scores. 77% of the Hoosiers' total yards came on those five explosive drives and Indiana averaged 13.77 yards per play. It was either three-and-out or explosive drive for most of the game.
Indiana's only offense came from Tevin Coleman, but Coleman had just a 41% rushing success rate -- but a 90-yard run and a 52-yard run on the Hoosiers' last play put Coleman's yards per carry average up to 8.4. They're different offenses, but this doesn't bode well for potentially containing Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.
Like Indiana getting 77% of their offensive yards on just 31% of their drives, the Buckeyes were similarly streaky on offense. Starting with Michael Thomas's first quarter fumble, the Buckeyes then went: interception, interception, punt, punt, punt, punt until the end of the third quarter. That's a long time -- off the top of my head, the longest time all season since Virginia Tech -- that the Buckeyes went without scoring. Again, that's what turnovers will do to you.
Elliott was inconsistent running the ball, similar to Tevin Coleman. Elliott had just a 23% success rate on his 13 carries, but made up for the poor efficiency with a big touchdown run to start the game and seven receptions (Barrett's most-targeted receiver). But the main problem really wasn't Elliott, but the offensive line, which played its worst game since Virginia Tech statistically. The line had a 28% Opportunity Rate, which is the percentage of runs that go for five or more yards -- the amount of yards that the line is responsible for on any given run play. To give some perspective, the line regularly averages in the mid-sixties in Opportunity Rate.
All day you got the sense that the Buckeyes weren't as fired up for Indiana as they should have been. It's understandable. Looking at the Hoosiers' statistics, it'd be easy to expect a dominating performance even if Marshall, Barrett, and Elliott were sleepwalking. That won't be the case next week. The Buckeyes will not underestimate or sleepwalk through The Game, nor will they look past Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship.
But not all of the Buckeyes' problems can be traced back to lack of effort or the early kickoff. The run defense was the same one that allowed David Cobb to break free multiple times last week. Preventing explosive runs will be the focus for the next two weeks -- as will preventing offensive turnovers. The Buckeyes are a talented, explosive team with much better depth than last year, but they are nonetheless very beatable when they turn the ball over and allow opposing big plays.