COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football’s penultimate home game brings it one step closer to a game with its rival as it continues to advance through the 2022 season.
It feels like an inevitable one-sided win is in order for a Buckeye side trying to bounce back from a less than ideal 21-7 win over Northwestern. OSU hasn’t looked alike for huge chunks of the last three games on offense, and a matchup with the Hoosiers offers a chance to right that ship.
The defense continues to move in the right direction, and that’s a good thing. But the offense hitting its high ceiling is what will give Ohio State its best shot at winning a national title.
Here are some questions to answer in week 10:
Will we get a QB1 stat set?
The State of Ohio did not count on by CJ Stroud arms almost as often this season as in 2021 so far. Most of that is because he’s winning games averaging 30 points per game, which is second nationally behind Michigan’s 30.1. Improved defense has meant putting games away quickly, which has reduced the number of times OSU has to pitch each game. This was not the case last season.
In nine games in 2021, he was 214 of 311 for 3,036 yards and 30 touchdowns. That includes five games with at least 30 passes and nine games with at least 300 yards.
In nine games this season, he’s 169 of 249 for 2,453 yards and 29 touchdowns. That includes just two games with at least 30 passes and four games with at least 300 yards.
The lack of passing hasn’t hurt his touchdowns, as until the Northwest game he led the nation in that category and is on track to break through. Dwayne Haskins’ school record of 50 set in 2018. But his yardage has dropped significantly from 337.3 per game to 272.6 per game.
Stroud’s Heisman Trophy case was always going to start with his numbers, but he’s had none in recent weeks, even as those games have given him a lead to tick off other categories. But its status quo is its ability to rack up the numbers efficiently. A game against Indiana gives him a chance to do that.
The question is whether his playmaker and head coach Ryan Day think that too and what it means for the Buckeyes’ approach on Saturday, especially when their two running backs have spent the year dividing their time between playing and dealing with injuries.
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Do we see a lot of Dallan Hayden and Chip Trayanum?
Tre Veyon Henderson and miyan williams have spent this season playing musical chairs, as neither has been able to stay healthy all season. It allows the two to have their workaholic moments this season, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen them in tandem like the Buckeyes would have liked. That shouldn’t change against Indiana, regardless of who is or isn’t on the availability report this week.
OSU shouldn’t need its two best guards to beat the Hoosiers, but it needs to start building some depth behind them with what’s left. It should have been Evan Prior, but was lost for the season with a knee injury. This subtraction, plus the inconsistent availability of Henderson and Williams, allowed Dallan Hayden to get more shots than most would have expected going into the season. This is also why Trayanum chip was dropped back to running back after being traded from Arizona State to first in play linebacker.
Saturday should be the Hayden and Trayanum show. If not, this game is much closer than anyone anticipates.
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Will Ohio State rotate on the offensive line again?
Ryan Day says the Buckeyes are playing their top five offensive linemen. He’s right to think so, but that doesn’t change the fact that they haven’t seemed to be national-caliber for the past three weeks.
It’s mostly a conversation about the guards donovan jackson and Matthew Jones. Jackson seems to be hitting that midseason sophomore wall we’ve seen harry miller and Paris Johnson Jr. hit the past two seasons as former five-star recruits played inside. Jones is not in perfect health, and this may prevent him from being at his best, while it is also the first time that he has started full-time.
Jackson will likely break through that wall at some point this season, but Jones isn’t 100% coming back because that’s not how it works. Last season, OSU supplemented those issues by using Jones as a sixth utility offensive lineman who at times rotated with Johnson and Thayer Munford.
It’s there that Josh Friar and Enoch Vimahi potentially enter. The first question is whether one or the other is capable of being that this season. If not, then OSU has to fight through its midseason struggles. If so, then the question is whether the state of Ohio is ready to do so. A game with Indiana is a good place to find out.
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