Are There Concerns About the Ohio State Buckeyes' Defense?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor INovember 19, 2013

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Ohio State won in impressive fashion, 60-35, over Illinois this past weekend, but the 35 points given up were the most by the Buckeyes all season long. As we head into the final stretch run of the season, should that point total be cause for concern for the Buckeyes? 

Indiana's passing attack is on the horizon this weekend, and there has been a disturbing trend for Ohio State against high-powered passing attacks so far this season. 

Against Cal, the Buckeyes allowed 34 points, the previous season high by an opponent. In that game, Cal quarterback Jared Goff had 371 yards, which is the most given up by the Buckeyes all season long. 

Wisconsin put up 295 yards through the air, but also scored four touchdowns in the passing game.

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 28:  Jared Abbrederis #4 of the Wisconsin Badgers pulls in a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter as Bradley Roby #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes defends at Ohio Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jam
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Illinois game was the third-highest total given up by Ohio State through the air, at 288 yards. But the Buckeyes defense wasn't the only group the Illini have put up points against in Big Ten play.

Illinois did put up 32 points on Wisconsin at home as well—and the Badgers are widely considered the second-best defense in the conference.

However, there is another factor in favor of the Buckeyes defense. All three of the highest passing games had something in common—the opponents were behind the eight ball from nearly the word go. 

Ohio State put both Cal and Illinois in 21-0 holes in the first quarter. Whether you have a run game or not, it doesn't matter when you are down three touchdowns in less than 15 minutes. 

Against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes also opened up a 17-7 lead and made the Badgers throw more than in any other game all season long. The Badgers attempted 34 passes in the losing effort, but they were highly effective from a pure numbers standpoint.

The problem with allowing a lot of yards is that all it takes is a team that is capable of matching you quick strike for quick strike, and that's what the Hoosiers can do.

Indiana averages over 300 yards a game through the air—the only team in the Big Ten to do that—and has scored 28 touchdowns through the air. That total is only second to Ohio State's own 31. 

Defensively, the Buckeyes have given up 17 touchdowns in the pass game, the third-highest total in the Big Ten. 

It's not to say Ohio State is in danger of losing to Indiana, because there are two parts to the equation. Indiana's defense is arguably the worst in the Big Ten, and Ohio State's offense is easily the best in the conference. 

However, going down the stretch, Ohio State needs to keep up the pressure it put on Nathan Scheelhaase last weekend. The Buckeyes did have six sacks and two interceptions, and those were important plays in sealing the game in the second half. 

Ohio State's biggest edge is that despite the numbers given up, it also makes big plays. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in sacks and are second in interceptions as well. Those two things can really help mask any deficiencies a secondary may have at times.

The problem moving forward may be facing a defense like Michigan State, which has found ways to stop even the most high-powered of offenses. If MSU stops the Buckeyes offense, the passing defense could be exposed to a greater degree.

However, Ohio State looks like a team on a mission, and that mission is to go undefeated for two years in a row and make a run at a national championship.

If Ohio State drops a game at all this season, it will be because of its lack of a pass defense. However, that's a big if, given the schedule ahead of it until the postseason.


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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