Indiana vs Ohio State: Biggest Storylines Heading into Big Ten Clash

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2013

Nov 16, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde (34) is congratulated by tight end Jeff Heuerman (86) and wide receiver Evan Spencer (6) after Hyde's touchdown during the first quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State puts its 22-game winning streak on the line when it welcomes Indiana into Columbus this Saturday.

The Buckeyes are 35-point favorites, according to Vegas Insider's consensus, so it's safe to say that the Buckeyes will almost certainly push their winning streak to 23 games.

However, it's often been the more average teams that have given OSU the most problems in recent years. Just this season, the Buckeyes were in a dogfight with Iowa. While Ohio State prevailed, it had to give fans enough of a scare.

At 4-6, Indiana isn't a bad team. Defense is a major concern, but the Hoosiers have the offensive weapons to snatch an upset if they play the perfect game.

Although the game looks one-sided on paper, there are plenty of compelling storylines that should keep things interesting.

Can Hoosiers Keep Game Close Early?

Nov 16, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) throws a pass during warmups prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In the Buckeyes' last three games, they've had a combined 119-21 advantage after the first half. Not surprisingly, OSU has gone on to win those three games by an average of 43.3 points.

The big takeaway here is to not lose the game in the first two quarters. If Indiana has any chance of winning this game, then it will have to keep the score close. The Hoosiers won't be able to overcome a 21-point gap or more.

Aside from that 51-3 loss to Wisconsin, offense hasn't been the big problem for IU. Nate Sudfeld has been capable enough under center, and he's been flanked by a solid running game.

The absence of Tevin Coleman would be a big blow. As the Columbus Dispatch's Tim May reported, the sophomore running back's status in is doubt.

Either way, the Hoosiers have to maintain a close enough gap that they can keep this game going into the fourth quarter. If they're down double-digits at half, they're toast.

Will Carlos Hyde Break His Personal-Best Rushing Record?

Nov 16, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde (34) scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

If Carlos Hyde had an entire season's worth of work, he could have built a strong Heisman campaign. In seven games, the senior running back has 947 yards and 11 touchdowns. Even more impressive is that he's averaging an obscene 7.9 yards a carry.

Considering Indiana's giving up 251.1 yards a game on the ground, it's probably a safe bet that Hyde will eclipse 100 for the sixth game in a row. Maybe, he even breaks 200 yards for the second game in a row.

Can Hyde match, or even best his performance against Illinois last week, when he ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns?

Can Ohio State Impress the Voters Enough to Remain No. 3?

Nov 2, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer in the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

You get the sense that Ohio State has known how precarious a position it's been in for the past few weeks. The Buckeyes have dropped a lot of points recently and won by wide margins, likely in an effort to impress the voters and hold on to their No. 3 ranking.

As Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated pointed out, though, it looks as though Baylor will pass OSU should it beat Oklahoma State on Saturday.

The only thing the Buckeyes can do is beat the Hoosiers so convincingly that they remain No. 3. They need to get up early and not look back. Any sign of weakness will only drop them further behind the Bears.