It's time to take a big deep breath if you're an Ohio State fan.
The Buckeyes are the measuring stick in the Big Ten and that means they're going to get every team's best shot each week. Indiana is a very good team and the good news for Ohio State is that they beat a team ranked in the Top 10 while playing far from their best football. For the third straight game, the Buckeyes let a big lead dwindle, but they never trailed and frankly the outcomes were never really in serious jeopardy.
Here are my biggest takeaways from Saturday's win at The Shoe:
Indiana Just Gave Everyone the Roadmap
Master Teague said after the game last night that he's never played a football game in his life during which the other team blitzed as often as Indiana did yesterday.
I'd be stunned if that's not the new normal for the Buckeyes moving forward the rest of this season.
If you're scheming up to play this high-octane offense, why wouldn't you try to apply as much pressure as possible? The fact is Fields was running for his life most of the night because of all the pressure IU brought and the Buckeyes still racked up 607 yards of total offense and scored five offensive touchdowns. What's the alternative - drop eight guys into coverage and let Justin Fields pick you apart anyways? No shot.
Fields threw for 300 yards and the Buckeyes ran the ball 50 times for another 307 yards. Digest that for a second. It's not like Indiana only blitzed on passing plays. Ohio State's offense had it's best production of the season while under the most pressure. If you're game-planning against Ohio State, your best chance is to get after Fields and try to force him to make mistakes like Indiana did yesterday. The Hoosiers had five sacks and three interceptions.
I didn't see many glaring issues on the offensive line yesterday with guys getting beat 1-on-1 (it only happened a couple times that I can recall). It's a numbers game and when the defense is consistently rushing more players than there are linemen to block, it looks worse than it actually is. Indiana came with some really impressive blitz schemes.
The Buckeyes have to Address the Secondary
Ryan Day was pretty clear after the game when asked about assessing how the secondary played.
"There are probably things that are repeating," Day said. "But teams attack you differently and we have to get it fixed. We need to identify what's going on. Any time you have a problem like that, it's one of three things: do you have the right personnel there? ... What is the scheme? Does that scheme give our guys the opportunity to be successful? And then if both of those boxes are checked, it goes to coaching. Are we coaching it correctly? When you're trying to fix something, you have to identify one of those three things.
"We'll figure out what needs to get addressed - it may be a little bit of each. But that's what Sunday's are for. And if you look at the first half, it's not like we're not capable of doing it. There was some really good football being played there for a good chunk of this game."
Shaun Wade's pick-6 was a bright spot late in the third quarter and the coverage in the first half was really solid. But the second half was a different story.
Marcus Hooker and Marcus Williamson in particular had tough nights. I don't want to take away credit from Michael Penix Jr. and Ty Fryfogle - those guys are having extraordinary seasons. But after Cam Brown's season-ending injury, the Buckeyes are left with mostly true freshmen in the secondary. Whether or not its a change in personnel, scheme or coaching philosophy, something has to give. If there's been a weak point through the first four wins, this is it.
Justin Fields Heisman Hopes Take a Hit
I hate saying that because I still believe he's the best player in college football. But given the smaller-than-normal sample size provided with a 2020 season, I think a 3-interception performance may be one of the hair-splitting nuances when trying to decide which of the nation's premier players are worthy of this year's award.
I'm so impressed by Fields (his postgame press conference is in the video above) because of the way he continues to compete, even when he's having a tough day. He was clearly not in a great mood after last night's win because he threw three interceptions, but he racked up 300 yards passing, 78 yards rushing and three total touchdowns during arguably his worst career performance. Some guys are lucky to accumulate those numbers on their best days.
It's certainly still possible for him to win the Heisman Trophy, but I think last night's performance made that more difficult.
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