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OHIO STATE Hoosiers handful according to Jim



Published: Wed, October 18, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Buckeyes have won the last 13 meetings with Indiana and none has been terribly close.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Another week, another opposing juggernaut.

It's not easy being No. 1 Ohio State. Or, at least, it's not easy trying to make every upcoming foe sound as if it is loaded with talent and itching to pull off the upset of the year in college football.

This week, the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) are favored by more than four touchdowns when they host Indiana on Saturday.

The Hoosiers (4-3, 2-1) are playing good football, having won their last two games over Illinois and Iowa. They have a maturing redshirt freshman quarterback in Kellen Lewis and a quality receiver in James Hardy.

Tressel talk

To hear Ohio State coach Jim Tressel talk, the Hoosiers are a lethal and dangerous group that will require a Herculean effort if the Buckeyes hope to slide by.

"They're courageous, they go as hard as they can possibly go, they don't care what anybody thinks about their chances," Tressel said Tuesday. "They just play and play and play."

A skeptic would say that there is plenty about the Hoosiers that would show they are not a rising team. Immediately before their current meager two-game winning streak, they lost three consecutive games at home -- to I-AA Southern Illinois, to Connecticut and, by a 52-17 score, to Wisconsin.

There is no doubt that Indiana is overdue to beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won the last 13 meetings with the Hoosiers and none has been terribly close, with Ohio State winning by an average margin of 32-11.

Yet Tressel is warning everyone within earshot that Indiana is capable of unseating the nation's hottest team -- just as he did about Northern Illinois, Cincinnati and Bowling Green.

Geography counts

"It's a huge ballgame for them," Tressel said. "They've got a lot of kids from this geographic area and would like nothing more than to come over here and represent themselves well with a lot of toughness and class."

Following their coach's lead, the Buckeyes bend over backward to lavish praise on other teams regardless of how many games they've lost or how low they are in the conference standings.

"We don't worry about their record, per se," wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "In order to play at a Big Ten school you have to be good, you have to have some kind of a gift. Just because it's Indiana and not Ohio State or Michigan or anyone else, doesn't take anything away from the player. They're all good at what they do. They all have the potential to make big plays."

Tressel has conditioned his players to avoid overconfidence by focusing on flaws in their performance instead of the shortcomings of opponents.

For instance, the Buckeyes defense is allowing 9 points a game, third-best in the nation. It is second in the country in turnover margin and sixth in tackles for minus yardage.

Yet defensive end Jay Richardson is unconvinced.

Room for improvement

"The defense has a long way to go," Richardson said. "We're getting towards some of our goals and we're playing better than some people expected us, but that's not good enough. Our goal is to try to be the best. We've got a lot of improvement to do."

Two weeks ago against Bowling Green, Heisman Trophy candidate Troy Smith completed 17-of-20 passes. One was caught out of bounds and two others were dropped. In other words, he flirted with a perfect passing day.

Asked to evaluate how the offense was playing, he said, "I guess one of the ways I would evaluate it is even though some of the things positive have happened thus far, there's always room for improvement."

If there is, all the praise in the world won't boost Ohio State's remaining opponents.




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