Thursday, October 11, 2012
Picks to click: Bucks to watch at Indiana
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A look at three Ohio State players who will be critical as the second half of the season starts with a trip to Indiana and how they might impact the outcome Saturday night (TV: BTN, 8 p.m.).
Carlos Hyde bulls through the Nebraska defense for one of his four touchdowns.
The basics: After not looking quite back to full speed a week before, Hyde showed no ill effects from the knee injury that interrupted his hot start to the season with the Buckeyes turning him loose 28 times against Nebraska. The tailback might not have the explosive, breakaway speed of quarterback Braxton Miller, but he had no problems helping him finish off drives with four trips to the end zone in his last outing.
By the numbers: The junior has almost exclusively had nothing but a positive impact with the football in his hands. Through 63 carries so far this season, Hyde only has lost 2 yards as a rusher as he continues to fight through contact and refuses to be brought down before at least getting back to the line of scrimmage.
Opportunity for impact: The Buckeyes had their way on the ground with the Huskers, piling up 371 yards on the ground and riding Hyde to take some of the burden off Miller -- including using him in the Wildcat package as the featured rusher. Next up is the only rushing defense ranked lower than Nebraska in the Big Ten, so Hyde had better be ready to see plenty of the football.
He said it: “Yeah, coach [Urban] Meyer actually asked me that today -- am I ready for 25 [carries] again? Yeah, I’m ready for that, that’s part of being a running back.” -- Hyde
The basics: The value the two-time captain brought to the field every week as a leader and tireless worker has never been questioned, but through much of the first half of the season, that wasn’t translating to much individual production for Simon thanks to nagging injuries. He appears to be getting much healthier now, and he was back to his old tricks in turning in an epic performance against the Huskers.
By the numbers: Through his first five games, Simon didn’t even rank in the top 20 in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss. That sixth, though, certainly changed things as the senior racked up five takedowns behind the line of scrimmage and shot all the way up to No. 2 in the league now with 7.5 overall -- plays that have accounted for 33 yards given up by opponents.
Opportunity for impact: Only two teams in the league have attempted more passes than the Hoosiers, and while they’ve largely been able to protect their quarterback, their offensive line could have their hands full with a group of linemen that is starting to live up to the preseason billing. Simon can’t do it all himself, obviously, but with Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel eating up blockers and Nathan Williams looking dangerous on the opposite end, he might again find a few holes to exploit on the way to the passer.
He said it: “There are a lot of guys who get dinged up. It’s Big Ten football, guys are going to get dinged up. It’s part of the game, and we get excited for the games and it kind of takes the pain away.” -- Simon
The basics: Having the best tandem of cornerbacks in the Big Ten requires more than just one guy playing at a high level, obviously. And while Howard might not be as flashy as his counterpart on the other side of the field, he’s been just as productive as Bradley Roby -- and actually still has an edge on him in interceptions through six games.
By the numbers: His high-profile sidekick made up a lot of ground a week ago, but Howard still sits on top of the interception scoreboard at the midway point of the season despite Roby’s double last week against Nebraksa. Not surprisingly, leading a team that has more picks collectively than any squad in the Big Ten also has Howard pacing the conference with three grabs already this year.
Opportunity for impact: The Hoosiers haven’t run into much trouble protecting the football through the air this season with just interceptions in five games, but Nebraska hadn’t encountered much turbulence either until it bumped into the Buckeyes. The return of C.J. Barnett at safety will give an extra layer of security for the cornerbacks to make plays, and after Roby’s outburst a week ago, the chances could be coming Howard’s way.
He said it: “I think very highly of Travis. Every game before we go out there or when we’re in warmups before a game, I tell him, ‘Let’s go out and show them why we’re the top-two Big Ten corners.’ I feel like when he’s out there and when I’m out there, it’s going to be hard for teams to complete passes. I’m proud of him and what he’s done this year, and I hope he keeps it up.” -- Roby