Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BUCKEYES FOCUS IS ON THE HOOSIERS, NOT BCS STANDINGS

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COLUMBUS — Not many teams in college football can hang 60 points on their opponent, win by four touchdowns, have the team directly behind them in the BCS standings fall, and still lose ground in the rankings.

That, unfortunately, has become the reality for the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) this season. No matter how badly they dismantle the opposition, no matter how many records they set, or touchdowns they score, they will continue to be at the mercy of the voters and their anti-Big Ten cynicism.

But according to Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, the rankings are out of his control. All he is focused on is getting a Buckeye-record (and nation's best) 23rd consecutive victory this Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC) against Indiana (4-6, 2-4).

"On a national scale, which we're not worried about, we're going to beat this team," Meyer said Monday during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "Wait a minute now. (Indiana) is a very good team, very good players, well coached. We have to really focus this week on facing a very potent offense."

Just one season ago, Indiana nearly shocked the college football world, putting up 481 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-49 loss to the Buckeyes in Bloomington.

This season, the Hoosiers are even more "potent" on offense, averaging nearly 500 yards (17th in FBS) and 40 points per game (15th). Outside of their 51-3 loss to Wisconsin last week, the Hoosiers have scored 28 or more points in each of their previous nine contests, including at least 35 in seven.

"This team can score points in bunches," Meyer said of Indiana. "We've got to control the clock, control the time. They scored a good amount of points on Michigan State, the No. 1 defense in the country."

However, according to Meyer, that near loss to Indiana last season had just as much to do with a lack of effort on the Buckeyes' part, than the high-octane attack of the Hoosiers.

"That was one of the first times I've ever seen our guys have an effort problem here," Meyer recalled of last season's tilt with Indiana. "That was not a comfortable Sunday when we all came back in here. People make mistakes in football all the time. As a matter of fact, you probably make more mistakes than you make great plays.

"But lack of effort is something that is just not tolerated. That is the only time I can remember, Wait a minute, that guy's not trying. What's the problem here? Let's get that fixed. 

"Fortunately we got it fixed."

Bottom line

While the Hoosiers' offense has been "potent" this season, the Indiana defense has been impotent. 

Out of 123 FBS teams, only New Mexico State has given up more yards per game than the Hoosiers have in 2013. The 38.8 points per game they have surrendered this season ranks 114th nationally.

That is not a great stat line to possess when having to go into Columbus and take on the fourth-highest scoring offense in the nation, led by star quarterback Braxton Miller and tailback Carlos Hyde, who combine for 442.4 yards and five touchdowns per game as a duo.

Ohio State may not be able to score enough points to change the opinion of the voters, but they sure as heck can put up enough to win their 23rd straight.

And if they keep on winning, they are guaranteed a trip to Pasadena ... one way or another.

Lee's prediction: OSU 72-28