Ohio State is 6-0 and ranked No. 8 in the country. But there is one thing that could derail this great start for the Buckeyes: injuries.
Specifically, injuries would present serious problems at three positions for Ohio State: quarterback, offensive line and linebacker. The latter group received some bad news on Monday.
Senior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino fractured a bone in the fibula of his right leg during Saturday's 63-38 win over Nebraska, the team announced today. Sabino has already had surgery and had a plate inserted into his leg. Ohio State is saying he will be out about four weeks, though Urban Meyer said three weeks is a best-case scenario.
"Tremendous blow," Meyer said at his weekly news conference Monday. "Sabino is like a son and brother to everybody."
He's like an older brother to the Buckeyes' linebacking corps as one of its few veterans. Sabino has 11 career starts and 46 games under his belt. He's had an interesting career, struggling to get on the field early, then redshirting in 2010 for what would have been his true junior year. But Sabino has started to really come on this season and had his best game two weeks ago against Michigan State. He's third on the team in tackles (37), tied for second in sacks with two and has an interception and forced fumble.
His replacements, according to the team's latest depth chart, are a pair of true freshmen: Joshua Perry and David Perkins. Both are talented players, but they obviously lack much game experience. Ohio State's other starting outside linebacker, Ryan Shazier, is a sophomore who's backed up by two freshmen. Senior middle linebacker Storm Klein is the only elder statesmen in the group now.
Ohio State's defense has been susceptible to missed tackles and blown assignments this season, though it done a better job of that the past two weeks. Believe it or not, Indiana should actually present a good test for that linebacking group this weekend, as the Hoosiers do have a strong passing game.
Beyond that, the Buckeyes will face Purdue at home and then go to Penn State. Then they have a bye week, so hopefully Sabino can be ready for the final two games against Wisconsin and Michigan.
The pressure is now on Ohio State's young linebackers to produce. And Buckeyes fans will have to hope for no other serious injuries at the team's thinnest positions.