Ohio State Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Buckeyes' Win vs. Indiana
If this game had gone five minutes longer, it may have ended differently.
The No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0) struggled early, surged and then held on late for a 52-49 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers (2-4).
The Buckeyes remain undefeated, but questions about Ohio State's defense will continue to rise after another miserable performance against an overmatched team. Thanks to Braxton Miller and the offense, the Buckeyes narrowly escaped a disaster in Bloomington.
Here are 10 things we learned from Ohio State's three-point victory over the Hoosiers.
1. Ohio State's defense is a dumpster fire.
There's no more sugar-coating it anymore. People could make all the excuses they wanted after the Nebraska game, but after Saturday night, there's no denying that there are legitimate issues with this defense.
While Indiana's offense is improved, surrendering 481 total yards and 49 points is nothing short of a disaster. The 49 points Indiana scored was the most they've ever hung on an Ohio State defense, making this a historically horrid performance for the Silver Bullets.
2. Injuries are hurting the defense.
Without defensive end Nathan Williams and linebacker Etienne Sabino, along with multiple members of the secondary hobbled, the defense was already at a disadvantage.
That doesn't excuse such a terrible performance, but it certainly contributes to it. With an already weak linebacker core and a suspect pass rush, missing players like Sabino and Williams will definitely affect their production.
3. An offensive player can lead the defense in tackles.
What does is say about the defense when Zach Boren—Ohio State's starting fullback—can fill in at linebacker and lead the team with eight tackles against Indiana?
For starters, it indicates that Urban Meyer and the coaching staff aren't big on Ohio State's freshmen linebackers. Joshua Perry and David Perkins had an opportunity to step up and fill in for Sabino, but the coaches elected to pull Boren from his spot in the offense and plug him in with Ryan Shazier and Storm Klein.
It's also indicative of how deprived this defense is of game-changing linebackers. Shazier has played well for the Buckeyes, and while Sabino was coming on before his injury, there's practically no production outside of that.
How soon until Meyer just gives up and puts buckets filled with lit firecrackers in at linebacker?
4. Finishing as the No. 1 team in the AP Poll should be the last thing on Ohio State's mind.
There was a lot of talk after Ohio State's 63-38 victory about the team finishing the season 12-0 with a shot at the AP's top spot.
If this coaching staff has any sense, they'd refocus this team's mindset on, well, doing things like not giving up 49 points to Indiana.
Frankly, if there aren't improvements on that side of the ball, one of Ohio State's last five opponents will outscore them.
5. Braxton Miller hasn't forgotten how to play football.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Buckeyes Saturday night.
Despite a horrendous performance from the defense, Ohio State's offense hummed along, hanging 52 points on the Indiana Hoosiers.
Braxton Miller was a big part of that, accounting for 360 total yards of offense (211 passing, 149 rushing) with two touchdown passes (against one interception) and a rushing score.
6. Miller's Heisman campaign got a boost.
It wasn't just because of his stellar performance. Heisman front-runner and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith struggled in a 49-14 loss to unranked Texas Tech Saturday afternoon.
That certainly doesn't mean Miller's in the drivers seat. In fact, Smith still probably has a sizable lead on Miller in the minds of Heisman voters. Robert Griffin III overcame back-to-back losses of 27 and 35 points to win last year's Heisman trophy.
Still, if West Virginia continues to struggle, Miller could be poised to take over the top spot.
7. Carlos Hyde is a man.
Coming off last week's 140-yard, four touchdown performance against Nebraska, Hyde ran wild on the Hoosiers. The junior running back rushed for a game-high 156 yards and a touchdown to go along with 27 yards receiving and another touchdown through the air.
Hyde's emergence in the backfield is a big reason for Ohio State's success on offense. The Buckeyes have scored more than 50 points in consecutive weeks for the first time since 1996. It's no coincidence that these games coincided with two of the most outstanding performances of Hyde's career.
8. Devin Smith is undoubtedly talented, but still has a lot of room to grow.
The sophomore receiver was Ohio State's leading pass catcher against Indiana, piling up 106 receiving yards with just two catches—both of which went for touchdowns.
Those numbers alone speak to how talented Smith is, but he left catches, and touchdowns, on the field against Indiana Saturday night.
Smith dropped two sure touchdown catches in the first and third quarters. These weren't tough catches—both were plays the talented receiver should make with ease.
9. Ohio State's special teams can be ugly and beautiful at the same time.
One minute the Buckeyes are getting their punt blocked, the next minute they're returning the favor.
Leading by just three points late in the first quarter, Ohio State got a punt blocked for the second time this year. The play set Indiana up with fantastic field position, which they cashed in on with a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead.
Two drives later, the Buckeyes stopped an Indiana drive and forced the Hoosiers to punt inside their own 20-yard line. Travis Howard broke through and blocked the punt, and Bradley Roby recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The Buckeyes reclaimed a 17-14 advantage, and from that point on, Ohio State never surrendered that lead.
10. This team is never boring.
How many wins does Ohio State finish with this year?
Aside from a 46-point victory over Miami (OH) in the season-opener, the Buckeyes have played in some highly entertaining games this season.
Ohio State needed a 72-yard touchdown catch from Devin Smith late in the fourth quarter to put away a stubborn Cal team in Week 3. Two weeks later, Smith caught a 63-yard touchdown pass to erase a four-point deficit against Michigan State, helping the Buckeyes beat the Spartans 17-16 in their Big Ten opener.
The games will only get more interesting as the schedule moves along. Contests against Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan loom large on Ohio State's horizon.
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412
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