We are at the point in the season now, where these to-do list items are much less about who Ohio State is playing, and far more about the Buckeyes (and their coaching staff) taking care of business.
With the Big Ten East looking far less daunting than it did just a few short weeks ago, OSU is again clearly the class of the conference, so while of course opponent-specific game planning is important, much of OSU’s attention needs to be on improving themselves and preparing to take on the best in the country in the College Football Playoff. While I know you don’t want to ever overlook an opponent, if the Buckeye coaches focus on solidifying the issues on both sides of the ball and improving every week, the road to the CFP will take care of itself.
So, now that the availability report is out for tonight’s game against Indiana (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC), let’s take a look at the things that I think Ohio State needs to do to get the most out of game.
Shake Off the Rust, Set the Best Defensive Rotation
The Buckeyes are coming into tonight’s game after a week off and essentially playing overmatched opponents in every game following the Week 2 loss to Oregon. They have also had a steady stream of starters and contributors find themselves on the inactive list in nearly every game of the season, and now that the availability report for the Buckeyes is available for the game against IU, it finally looks like OSU is as healthy on defense as it has been all season.
RBs Master Teague and Marcus Crowley are unavailable tonight vs. Indiana, as are TE Gee Scott Jr., and OLs Harry Miller and Enokk Vimahi.— Bill Landis (@BillLandis25) October 23, 2021
No game-time decisions.
Should mean Haskell Garrett, Miyan Williams, Tyreke Smith and Cameron Brown are available.
So, even though the Nits lost to Illinois in the most hilarious nine overtime game in the history of college football today, next weekend’s “Scarlet Out” in The Shoe will be a huge test for the Buckeyes against a quality opponent. So, while you certainly don’t want to see anyone who isn’t 100% healthy further injure themselves against the Hoosiers tonight, you obviously want to make sure that everybody is ready to go and in mid-season form for the primetime matchup next week.
On the defensive side of the ball Matt Barnes and Kerry Coombs need to get guys like Tyreke Smith, Cameron Brown, Haskell Garrett and Sevyn Banks fully reintegrated into the rotation so that the D can be in optimal fighting condition next week. With the extra week off, this past week, the coaching staff discussed being able to really drill down on the new concepts that they have begun incorporating in response to the horrendous performance against the Ducks a month and a half ago.
With some important players getting healthy on the defensive side of the ball, this will be a good opportunity to get things solidified for the stretch run.
Leave No Doubt
After Oklahoma, Cincinnati, and Penn State struggled (and in the Nits’ case lost) against sub-par opponents earlier in the day, the Buckeyes need to take this opportunity — against a team that is much better than its record would indicate — and reassert their dominance not only in the Big Ten, but in the College Football Playoff race as well.
I don’t think that anyone with eyes or an opinion unmarred by personal biases would argue the fact that the Ohio State offense is one of the best — and mostly likely The best — in all of college football. So prove it.
While they haven’t been as sturdy as they were in 2020, Tom Allen’s defensive unit is still capable of battening down the hatches and holding a teal below its scoring average. Don’t let them.
The Buckeyes come into this game averaging a nation’s best 48.5 points per game and I would love to see them up that average to 50, and all they’d need to do is put up 59 in Memorial Stadium tonight. Do it.
The flip side of that equation is that the defense needs to be able to continue their impressive resurgence against a better opponent (I think) than Rutgers and Maryland. The OSU defense hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown since the Oregon game and the first team D has been just about as perfect as you could hope for. Keep it up.
There is still a lot to prove for this Ohio State team, and they need to take advantage of every opportunity to show that they are, in fact, one of the best teams in the country. Leave no doubt.
Put it all on tape
Penn State struggled mightily against Bert Bielema’s vaunted Illinois Fighting Illini offense, giving up 363 rushing yards. Now, in fairness, the Nits did only allow 10 points in regulation, but what an absolutely ugly performance by the PSU defense. With James Franklin’s crew coming to Columbus next week, part of the game plan for Ohio State against Indiana should be to show all of the different wrinkles and facets of their offense to force PSU to prepare for literally everything.
Show them every possible iteration of TreVeyon Henderson running the ball. Show them countless variants of play-action, RPO, quarterback keepers, etc. Then show them every exotic option that you have for the insanely talented wide receivers. Get the ball to Jeremy Ruckert a few times, run a few wheel routes for the backs, and FEED MITCH ROSSI!
The Illinois offensive line absolutely manhandled PSU, so I can only imagine what OSU’s unit will be able to do next Saturday. So, give them tons of things to think about and exploit your obvious talent advantage.
Final Score: 53-17
C.J. Stroud: 21-26, 304 yards, 4 TDs
TreVeyon Henderson: 179 yards rushing, 2 TDs, 67 yards receiving