Friday, October 8, 2010

GAME PREVIEW: TRESSEL EYEING 100TH WIN AS BUCKEYES HEAD MAN

COLUMBUS — When the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes welcome Indiana into the Horseshoe this Saturday afternoon, it will be about more than just staying unbeaten in the Big Ten.

OSU head coach Jim Tressel will be going for win No. 100 as the Buckeyes mentor this Saturday against the 3-1 Hoosiers, something his players will certainly use as motivation.

"Definitely," OSU senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said, when asked if helping Tressel reach the milestone is a motivating factor for the Buckeyes. "It would be great to be the team that can give him that 100th win, that can propel him to that next standard of college coaching.

"It does mean a lot because he's a guy that's whole life is dedicated to us."

Tressel, who also recorded 135 victories at Youngstown State (1986-2000), is the second winningest active head coach in the FBS — behind only Penn State's Joe Paterno.

However, Tressel — who likes to bask in the spotlight about as much as a vampire — said that improving to 6-0 is the only thing on his agenda come Saturday afternoon.

"I'd rather have a sixth (win) than 100," Tressel said. "I guess you can't have one without the other, so I guess it would be neat, but we would reflect on that for about three minutes and then we'd be getting ready for the next game.

"But as we've talked about those things before, I guess I'm getting old. If you stick around long enough, you're going to get some of those milestones."

If the Buckeyes are going to get the old man his 100th win this Saturday, they must find a way to contain  one of the best passing offenses in the nation.

The Hoosiers, behind fifth-year senior quarterback Ben Chappell, have averaged nearly 350 yards a game through the air this season, and have scored just under 40 points per contest.

Chappell uses multiple receivers in his attack, led by juniors Tandon Doss and Demarlo Belcher, and fifth-year senior Terrence Turner. The Hoosiers receiving trio have combined for a ridiculous 78 receptions, 944 yards and 5 touchdowns in four games this season. They are big, talented, experienced, and will give the Buckeyes banged up defensive secondary quite a bit of action.

"They present every problem that you can think of, especially in the air," Larimore said of Indiana's offense. "They're one of those teams that can really get after you. I don't know how it's possible but they had 102 plays last week against Michigan. It's going to be a tough game. We're really going to have to get after them with our front four."

Tressel said that as good of a passing team as Indiana is, the Buckeyes cannot ignore the Hoosiers' running attack. Sure, Indiana ranks last in the Big Ten in rushing offense averaging just 107 per game — of course, they haven't needed to run much this season — but they do possess a talented tailback in junior Darius Willis, who has toted the rock for more than four yards a carry in 2010, with four touchdowns.

"They're probably going to be okay at running it simply because you have to give so much attention to the fact that they throw it so well, and so often," Tressel said of Indiana's offense. "I don't know how many yards they're interested in running for, but if all of a sudden they see you in a situation where you're ignoring the run, they won't mind beating you with a run and that back's a good one.

"The guys up front on defense, while they know they're going to be needing a lot of rest this week because they're going to be rushing the passer a bunch, they also know that with that goes the perils of draws and screens and the zone read things they do. They run that pistol and they bend it back a little bit, so you have to be run sound.

"I'll say this," Tressel continued. "If Indiana runs extremely well against us, life is going to be real hard."

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers are horrid on defense ranking dead last in the Big Ten against the run.

This should be the week the Buckeyes get their struggling run game going. Yes, Ohio State did rush for more than 200 yards at Illinois last week, but most of that came off quarterback scrambles from Terrelle Pryor. But after straining his left quad in that game, the prospects of Pryor being a running threat against Indiana doesn't seem likely.

"Well, I think you always have to have in your bag of tricks things for a strong wind in your face, things for a mobile quarterback, things for a quarterback that's not as mobile," Tressel said. "We kind of went through that last year. Those last three games, we didn't have the mobility at that position."

Pryor shouldn't have any setbacks throwing the football this weekend, but it is still imperative that the Buckeyes backfield churns out yardage and has the ability to grind the clock, because the last thing the Ohio State defense needs is for Indiana to run a hundred offensive plays.

Bottom Line

Indiana's potent offense has faced the likes of Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron and Michigan this season. Not exactly murderer's row when it comes to defensive prowess. 

The Hoosiers will not be able to run against Ohio State's front seven, forcing them to be one dimensional — and if history has taught us anything it's that no balance against OSU's defense, means no victory.

Also look for the Buckeyes' rushing attack to get it going against the Hoosiers' porous front, enabling them to grind out the clock, while preventing Indiana's offense from being on the field for 40-plus minutes.

Tressel's 100th win at Youngstown State was against Indiana State.

His 100th win at Ohio State will be against Indiana.

Lee's Call: OSU 41-14