A Heisman candidate, a Lombardi Award finalist and a jump in the College Football Playoff rankings are all topics surrounding the Ohio State football team.
Coach Urban Meyer, however, is only focused on one thing.
“I’m just worried about Indiana,” Meyer said Monday.
The Hoosiers (3-7, 0-6) are scheduled to enter Columbus on Saturday as the only team in the Big Ten without a conference win, despite boasting the third-best rushing attack in the league.
Leading the way for Indiana is junior running back Tevin Coleman, who has rushed for 1,678 yards and 12 scores in just 10 games for the Hoosiers.
Coleman, a Doak Walker Award semifinalist, did not play last year against the Buckeyes due to injury as OSU cruised to a 42-14 win.
Despite the easy victory, Meyer said Coleman is a “ridiculous” running back and compared him to other skilled running backs in the Big Ten.
“The game he just played, (he had) 300 yards. You give him a crack, he has great acceleration, (he is) big, a little bit like the kid from Wisconsin. Just a big back,” Meyer said, referencing Wisconsin redshirt-junior running back Melvin Gordon in comparison to Coleman. “Those are all outstanding backs that will be playing on Sundays and this kid is one of those too.”
Junior defensive lineman Adolphus Washington, who has started all but one game this season said it would not be acceptable to give up a big game to Coleman, even if the Buckeyes win.
“Our goal is to keep him under 100 yards,” Washington said Wednesday. “That’s our goal and we are going to do that and still get the win.”
Coleman’s carries are likely because of the season-ending injury suffered by Indiana junior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who was averaging 191.8 passing yards per game before suffering the shoulder injury in a 45-29 loss to Iowa.
Indiana has not won a game since Sudfeld’s injury and his replacement, freshman Zander Diamont, has thrown for just 282 yards in the four games he’s played.
With a rush heavy offense, Washington said getting off blocks has been stressed in practice this week in order to shut down the Indiana rushing attack.
“We know that these guys can run through arm tackles, so we have to work on getting off blocks every play,” he said. “Not trying to walk away from blocks and that kind of stuff because these backs are pretty good.”
Sophomore Joey Bosa, who was named a finalist for the Lombardi Award on Thursday, added that it is not just Coleman, but the Hoosier offense as a whole that he is worried about.
“Definitely (Coleman) and (the Hoosiers) are very fast-paced zone team,” Bosa said Wednesday. “They will be going side-to-side a lot and really up-tempo so just have to get in good shape this week.”
Bosa, who enters Saturday’s game with a Big Ten best 11.5 sacks, said he has adjusted his personal goals from the beginning of the season because of his recent success.
“I was actually going for 12, but now I am trying to beat the record,” he said. “(It would mean) a lot. As a sophomore, I think that would be something great to accomplish.”
The current school record is 14 sacks held by Vernon Gholston, who set the mark during the 2007-08 season.
Bosa’s single game high in sacks in his short Buckeye career is 2.5 in games against Penn State this season and against Illinois in 2013.
If breaking the school record wasn’t incentive enough, Bosa said beating Indiana and getting a spot in the 2014 Big Ten Championship game should be.
“That’s enough motivation right there, clinch the Big Ten (Championship game),” he said. “Every game is a big game obviously. We go in with the same mindset so there is just another step.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes have a chance to break a few records of their own.
Redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett is just two passing touchdowns away from breaking former OSU quarterback Troy Smith’s school record of passing scores in a single season.
In addition, sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott has the opportunity to become the second player ever under Meyer to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, something Elliott said he doesn’t take for granted.
“It means a lot. It’s something you dream of when you are a kid, being a football player at a Division I college,” Elliott said Wednesday. “Being able to rush for 1,000 yards, that’s just a great accomplishment.”
Elliott currently sits at 954 yards rushing on the season, averaging 95.4 per game.
Despite his rushing yards, Elliott said he believes he can do more than just run the football effectively.
“I think I am just a versatile back. I can do a lot of things,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in my blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield, I can run it inside and outside.”
Meyer said earlier in the week that he thought the Big Ten had some of the best running backs in the country and added “I’ve got to throw my guy in there,” when discussing including Elliott in that mix.
Being mentioned by Meyer in such a light was motivating, Elliott said.
“You just have to be thankful, thankful to God for the opportunities,” Elliott said. “Just have to go out there and keep grinding and get better every week.”
Meyer also endorsed Barrett, whom Meyer said now belongs in the Heisman discussion heading into the Buckeyes’ matchup with Indiana.
“I don’t know if my endorsement matters, but I (have) been fortunate to coach some guys that have been in New York, and he’s a Heisman candidate,” Meyer said Monday.
Barrett acknowledged that the added attention has been “crazy” but said his focus is on one thing.
“Being 1-0 at the end of the week, making sure that is the main focus,” Barrett said. “Not thinking about the Big Ten Championship Game, not thinking about that team up north, but just beat Indiana. That is the objective this week.”
The Buckeyes and Hoosiers are scheduled to go head-to-head Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.