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With the Urban Meyer Era fewer than 50 days aways from kicking off in Columbus, we at Buckeye Grove- along with some help from our friends in the Rivals.com network- have decided to take an in-depth look at each of Ohio State's opponents for the 2012 season. Today, we'll be examining the Buckeyes' seventh opponent of the season: the Indiana Hoosiers. You can see yesterday's preview of the Nebraska Cornhuskers by clicking here.
After opening the Big Ten season with two teams projected to be two of the conference's best, the Ohio State football team could be getting a break of sorts on Oct. 13, when it will travel to Bloomington, Ind. to face the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Hoosiers are coming off a 1-11 season, with the team's only win coming against FCS 1-AA's South Carolina State. And while the feeling around Bloomington is that the Indiana program is headed in the right direction under second-year coach Kevin Wilson, it's also clear that the Hoosiers still have a long way to go.
"For obvious reasons, you can't be any worse," Matt Weaver of Peegs.com said. "There were some guys who just didn't buy in- older guys who were brought in by the previous staff. They didn't want to put forth the effort that this staff expected of them, so they kind of had to go through some rough times and the guys who are here, they all seem to be buying in and they really seem to be working hard and the staff is working hard."
Sophomore Tre Roberson will get the first shot at quarterbacking Wilson's pass-heavy offense, after throwing for 937 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. The 6-foot, 180-pound Roberson actually found some success in the Hoosiers' 34-20 loss to the Buckeyes a season ago, throwing for 174 yards and adding 70 more on the ground.
"Last year, Roberson did a nice job of running around and making some plays," Weaver said. "You could say he's the starter in pencil. I don't think it's set in stone. Coming out of the spring, he was still kind of the No. 1 guy, but I think it will still be a competition in the fall camp."
That competition will come in the form of a pair of newcomers in junior college transfer Cameron Coffman and true freshman Nate Sudfeld. While both current back-ups present different strengths, there's a good chance that all three could see playing time for the Hoosiers this season.
"Coffman played pretty well in the spring game, he threw the ball pretty well. The staff is really wanting to improve the passing game, they just weren't very good at throwing the ball last year," Weaver said. "Nate Sudfeld, he was originally committed to Arizona. He's a big pocket-passer guy, he's really what they're looking for in the offense, but as a freshman it could be tough for him to make that jump. But it wouldn't shock me to see all three guys play this fall."
One positive for the Indiana offense could be it's offensive line, which returns four players who saw significant playing time a year ago in guards Bernard Taylor and Collin Rahrig, center Will Matte, and right tackle Peyton Eckert. But despite their returning experience, there's still one big question mark left on the Hoosier's offensive line.
"The big position is offensive left tackle because that's the blind spot for the quarterback. Honestly, you could say the offensive line wasn't too bad last year considering they had a bunch of young guys," Weaver said. "They've got some young guys coming in that they really like and there's a couple guys they redshirted that could be a mix. The offensive line, I think, will probably be okay."
The defensive side of the ball returns six starters, but that might be a good thing for a team that ranked dead last in the Big Ten in scoring, rushing, and total defense in 2011. In an effort to help change improve the Hoosiers' lackluster defense, Wilson has brought in several junior college transfers who he is hopeful can make an immediate impact for Indiana.
"It's obviously a question mark, but I think there is some reason for hope," Weaver said. "IU's Achilles' heel for years has been defense. They can't stop anybody through the air or on the ground. They've got some nice pieces but we'll see if they all come together."
With the Buckeyes' matchup with the Hoosiers essentially marking the midway point of Urban Meyer's first season as the head coach in Columbus, Indiana's subpar defense could go a long way towards instilling confidence in an Ohio State offense in its first year in a new system. The matchup could also be helpful for an Ohio State defense that could still be finding its footing after also suffering through a less-than-stellar 2011.
"It's hard for me to say they'll be able to exploit Ohio State or pick a weakness on Ohio State's offense, because defensively they haven't proven that they can stop anybody," Weaver said. "Maybe they'll have a chance to move the ball on them. Ohio State's going to be the favorite and will probably win. It's in Bloomington, so who knows."
The Buckeyes and Hoosiers will kickoff at 8 p.m. on Oct. 13 in a game that will air live on the Big Ten Network.
You can follow Matt Weaver on Twitter @MB_Weaver.
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