Key factors

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra

Get the passing game in rhythm

Penn State was the first opponent to thwart Ohio State’s downfield passing game consistently. Its pressure forced Dwayne Haskins Jr. to throw off his back foot and generally look uncomfortable until coaches changed play calls to feature short passes, usually screens, with success late. This probably represented growing pains, and probably healthy ones, but it’s important to re-establish consistency in the complete passing game for Haskins. A potent running game, which happened only in spots against Penn State, would be huge in forcing the Hoosiers off balance.

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Eliminate the penalties

Ohio State has been called for 42 penalties totaling 403 yards. Many of them have been careless ones, including several in the kicking game. The Buckeyes should have the discipline to avoid those. They also have the talent to not put themselves in position to have to commit them. Cornerbacks have been in position, for example, but the failure to turn their head to look for the ball has resulted in flags.

Prevent the big plays

Until this year, Ohio State had never given up a play longer than 91 yards. The Buckeyes have surrendered 93-yard touchdowns twice this season, along with several other plays of 50 or more yards. Ohio State’s defense has often been stingy and have made more than their share of game-changing plays. But if it’s to be the consistently elite defense it believes it can be, it must make opponents work for everything. Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey isn’t the talent Trace McSorley is, but he’s talented enough as a dual threat to give Ohio State headaches.

Dominate special teams

Indiana looks vulnerable in this phase. Its net punting is only 36.2 yards, third-worst in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers’ kickoff coverage is also suspect. Ohio State’s overall talent in athleticism should be apparent, even though its return game hasn’t been dynamic. Punter Drue Chrisman and the punt coverage units have been superb this season, giving OSU a consistent field-position advantage.

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