Ohio State doesn't lose to Indiana. Most of their wins historically have been blowouts, but a few have been close. Not many were closer than yesterday's 34-27 Ohio State victory, which was literally decided on the last play of the game, when Zander Diamont's final prayer from the Ohio State nine went unanswered. This game was full of emotional ups and downs, from breathtaking Zeke runs, to defensive havoc, to Indiana crawling back multiple times after it looked like Ohio State would finally put them away, to mind-numbing mistakes and craziness.
This is a game that is going to inspire some real #takes, some fair, some complete garbage. After all, for all of the uneven play that Ohio State has shown this season, they are still 5-0, which is more than an awful lot of other college programs can say right now. What did we learn after the game though? Who is up, and who is down? Let's take a look.
Blue Chip Stocks:
DE Tyquan Lewis: We knew this Ohio State defensive line had some baaaaaad men on it, and this season, they haven't disappointed. As far as the box score is concerned, maybe nobody was more impressive than Lewis, who was in the backfield and disrupting plays all night. Lewis finished with 3.5 TFL, leading the way for a Buckeye attack that had a whopping 11 tackles for loss. With the exception of one long Diamont TD run, Ohio State largest kept a very potent Indiana rushing attack at bay, and Lewis was a big reason why.
RB Ezekiel Elliottt: So he didn't do very much in the first half. All Zeke did was put the team on his back, trouncing the Hoosiers with scoring runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards, right through the heart of Bloomington. When the dust settled, Elliott threw himself right back into the Heisman race with a career high 274 yards and 3 TDs on 23 carries, plus another two catches for 12 yards. When Elliott barely has any blocking, he can make something out of nothing and give you four and and change. When he gets a push in the second level, his acceleration and strength means he can go for six almost anywhere. Indiana's rushing defense is bad, but don't discount what Zeke did today. He was damn awesome.
"Bound For Glory" by the Tedeschi Trucks Band: Look, that was an emotional game. Ohio State, as the number one team in the country, nearly lost to freakin' Indiana. There were injuries, dumb penalties, dumber turnovers, and even though it was exciting, it probably left your nerves completely shot. Let the balm of the Tedeschi Trucks Band cleanse your troubled heart. Ohio State may be imperfect now, but they may be bound for glory yet.
This is my single favorite song. I've played it enough that my wife has threatened to banish me to the couch if she hears that horn riff one more time. It's worth the risk. I'm listening to it *really quietly* right now.
The Heart of Indiana football: I know, this feels a little weird to type, given their history, but even though their computer profile wasn't breathtaking, and their 4-0 start wasn't exactly built on dominating performances over excellent competition, Indiana is 4-1. Plus they still have Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue to play, and of course just gave the defending national champions absolutely everything they could handle, even after losing their starting QB, and their starting RB to injury over the course of the game.
Indiana didn't play a perfect game by any means, but they rolled up over 400 yards on a very good defense, were strong on third down for much of the game, frustrated Ohio State, especially in the red zone, all game, and acquitted themselves very well. If they can get healthy, they're going to be a tough out in the Big Ten, and a bowl bid should be expected at this point.
DL Adolphus Washington: There may not be a player who been more consistently excellent this Ohio State season than Washington, who is almost certainly the defensive MVP so far. Washington led another productive day for the Buckeyes, finishing with 10 tackles (second on the team), including a half tackle for a loss, while also helping to plug up the defensive line and create opportunities for others.
Indiana's Justin Howard, who lead the NCAA in rushing yards headed into the game, had only 2.4 yards a carry and Washington is a reason why. For as much as the rest of the team may struggle with inconsistency, if Washington and the rest of Ohio State's line can keep playing at a high level, they're going to have a chance in just about every game.
Ohio State inability to get out of their own way: Ohio State is a better football team than Indiana. They are more talented at every single position, and even on the road in an emotionally charged up atmosphere, they should have been able to put away the Hoosiers before the last play of the game. Their own mistakes were a huge reason why. Ohio State had eight penalties for 103 yards, including two terrible ones on the final drive (including a 15 yard face mask penalty) to put the Hoosiers in scoring position.
They also had three turnovers, including two that lead to 10 Indiana points. If Ohio State avoids just one of them, this is almost certainly a two-score plus Ohio State win. Now, five games into the season, untimely penalties and turnovers (Ohio State has had multiple turnovers in every game but one) look like they're a bit of a trend. You can't always count on an explosive play to bail you out. The shotgun must be aimed away from the foot if you want to win the conference.
Offensive line consistency: Sure, this offensive line returns four starters from last year, and yes, many of the guys on this unit have NFL aspirations and draft grades. But this season, for whatever reason, they have not been able to come close to last year's level. Ohio State can have all the talent in the world, but if they're not able to get regular pushes, against odd-man fronts or not, there just isn't much Ohio State can do.
Facing an Indiana line that was missing their best player and was pushed around by much worse offensive lines, the Buckeyes couldn't open up enough space, and were miserable on third down. The Slobs had their moments, but if this offense is going to reach its true potential, those moments need to happen more often. If this unit can't stay on schedule and sustain long drives, a big reason why is the line. The talent is there.
H-Back Braxton Miller: After an electric first game against Virginia Tech, Miller has faded significantly from the offense. Today, Miller has just two touches (a rush and a catch), combining for three yards. Not only that, but a costly penalty robbed Ohio State of a touchdown in the first half. It's almost as if learning a new position is very difficult, and between Miller learning to handle the blocking responsibilities of being a WR, and Ohio State struggling to find ways to most effectively get him the ball (those direct snaps weren't working too well), Miller hasn't been much of a factor. That isn't to say that he won't get to that point, but he's not helping the team very much right now.
Cardale Jones as the reason for Ohio State's struggles: SELL. Cardale didn't have the best second half, and he made a few mistakes throwing the football, but he made many more solid throws.
Jones finished 18/27, for 245 yards, a TD and a score, which is a pretty respectable day at the office. Those few mistakes were concentrated at very inopportune times (i.e, the red zone), but that doesn't make the struggles completely his fault. Switching Jones for Barrett doesn't improve the consistency of blocking, or wideouts getting open, or defensive backs taking bad angles, or Marshall fumbling, or a slew of other factors.
Fans may scream for his head, but switching QBs every few drives won't change things for the better, in my view. Jones has a lot of room to improve, but he's not the problem.
Every team being kinda bad: BUY. It's possible that Ohio State has only played about four halves of excellent football this season. But who has been excellent every game? Utah struggled in spots against Utah State and Fresno State. UCLA, Ole Miss and Notre Dame all lost today. Michigan State has struggled multiple times, and could have lost to Purdue. The list goes on.
It's tough to be emotionally charged up every single week, and play flawless football, even against teams where you have a major talent advantage. That's not to say that Ohio State didn't struggle, or that they shouldn't be judged for those struggles, but remember, let he who hasn't had a bad game throw the first stone.
Uh, please put that stone down, Baylor.