Ohio State got a well-timed bye this past week as the team continues to build on its recent success but also needed some rest with a host of nagging injuries throughout the roster. Now the Buckeyes are back against an Indiana team that gave them quite a scare a year ago in Columbus and challenged them for the Big Ten East Championship in 2020.
Things have a bit of a different feel this year as the Hoosiers have struggled and will be without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Will Ohio State come out of the bye week strong or will it take some team to regain form? Our Staff takes a look at this big Saturday night matchup and what to expect.
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Ohio State kicks off the second half of its season with its first contest of many that will feature a similar theme–defense-first opponents. In SP+, Indiana ranks 20th in defense and 79th in offense (they are 42nd overall). Tom Allen’s defense will use a variety of blitzes from both linebackers and the secondary, and feature a myriad of creepers and simulated pressures (plays where the defense rushes 4 and drops 7, but 1-2 of the rushers come from the back 7).
The Buckeyes need to be clean in their run and pass blocking identification, and then hit the intermediate zones between the rush and soft zone coverages protecting those blitz schemes. Ohio State should also have opportunities to run the football with mid and wide zone where they can out leverage the Indiana front.
Defensively, Indiana will provide the Buckeyes a chance to continue to build upon their new philosophy under Matt Barnes, mixing split safety cover 2 and cover 4 with cover 3 creeper and sim pressures. The Hoosiers may provide the first test of the Ohio State new-look defense against a running quarterback. But the split safety coverage scheme actually puts the Buckeyes in a better position to handle it.
Ohio State 39 Indiana 17
Indiana’s hapless offense runs into a possibly hapful Ohio State defense. The Hoosiers have scored just one touchdown in Big Ten play in three games so far, which tells me they shouldn’t score more than two against the Buckeyes. That’s going to make it incredibly difficult for Indiana to keep Ohio State to under 17 points and pull off a win.The Hoosiers will be aggressive and attack quarterback CJ Stroud because there’s no sense in just sitting back and letting Ohio State do what they want. They are going to have to make Stroud ineffective and create some turnovers. Indiana will need short fields to keep up, and even then it seems pretty unlikely.
Ohio State 49 Indiana 7
Last season, Indiana was the talk of the conference. The Hoosiers seemingly came out of nowhere to challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten East championship and gave the Buckeyes all they could handle in the matchup in Columbus. This year has a different feel to it with the Hoosiers struggling, perhaps because of the larger target on their back, but also because of some key injuries they have had to deal with.
While you could argue it would be better for Ohio State to not have had a bye last week as the Buckeyes seem to be improving with each and every game, it also was probably a well-timed break to get some injuries under control and to get so many young players a mental rest and re-focused for the stretch run.
I have a lot of respect for this Indiana defense, but I’m just not convinced there is a defense north of Athens, Georgia, that is truly capable of shutting down this Ohio State passing attack at this point in the season. I think C.J. Stroud and the receivers continue to make big plays, and that the Indiana defense will have a moment or two, but will not be able to get consistent stops.
On the other side of the ball, this just doesn’t look like the same Indiana offense that carved up the OSU defense last season. This also is starting to look like a better OSU defense than the one the Buckeyes put on the field in 2020. I think it could take a series or two for OSU to find its footing in a rowdy night environment but the Buckeyes pull away in the second half.
Ohio State 41 Indiana 20
I don’t think Indiana is as bad as their 2-4 record says they are. The schedule has been tough with the opener at Iowa, another away game at Penn State, and home contests against Cincinnati and Michigan State (both close games) serving as their losses on the season.
As we talked about this week, though, the Indiana offense took a huge step back from last year, when we thought maybe that group would take a step forward and make this team “for real” as a contender in 2021. The defense has been stellar and will serve as a legitimate challenge for the Ohio State offense, but with Michael Penix out (and playing poorly before that), the offensive line not looking good, and the playmakers (see: Ty Fryfogle) not executing at a high level, I think this will be a good match-up for the Silver Bullets.
The key to the game will be protecting the football on offense. If they do that, which I think they will do generally well, the Buckeyes just need to take what the defense is giving them, instead of trying to force what they want to do, and they should be able to get into the 35+ point range. I think the defense will play well enough to continue getting the offense the ball throughout the game, and when they give up points it will be more of a bend-but-don’t-break, resulting in field goals versus touchdowns.
Ryan Day learned last year that you need to keep your foot on the gas against Tom Allen’s team, as they won’t quit, regardless of the score, until the final whistle blows—I don’t think Day will make that mistake again. With that said, coupled with the analysis above, I think this game will be a fairly comfortable win for the Scarlet and Gray, although with some frustrating moments thanks to the IU defense, and they’ll move on to the Penn State contest at 6-1 (4-0) on the season.
Ohio State 41 Indiana 16
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I go into these promising everyone not to write a novel and then I do. Maybe I should quit making my pick the moment I finish writing Tale of the Tape and having all these numbers swirling in my head.
There are going to be a lot of people who will look at this game and see the 2020 edition of the Indiana Hoosiers and not the 2021 edition. This team is 2-4, may be down its starting quarterback, could be down one or two starting corners and even with all three in the lineup, were still not very good.
The Hoosiers have averaged seven points per game on offense against Big Ten opponents and while it might be unfair to take the Cincinnati game out of the equation, due to the Bearcats having a magical season, the reality is that this team is not doing a good job of putting the ball into the endzone.
On the other side of the ball, those other three teams have averaged putting 25 points per game up on IU. If you take the scoring average of each of those three teams, it is a little better than 30 points, meaning that IU has held them to five fewer points per game than the average of the group.
Ohio State is scoring 48.5 points per game, and if Indiana held Ohio State to five fewer points (it won’t) than its average, rounding up, that is 44. So, does that mean 44-7?
No, I think even with all of Indiana’s troubles, the Hoosiers will score a little more than that, just because the Ohio State defense is getting fixed, and not completely fixed yet. Sure, I don’t think IU can run the ball and regardless of who the QB is, they can’t throw the ball well, but I have seen some things happen in the shadow of “The Rock”.
The recruiting loss of Dasan McCullough was a family decision more than Indiana coming out and beating Ohio State for an Ohio State commit. But just to make sure nobody else gets any idea, look for Ryan Day to put foot to pedal and drive the Buckeye Bus over the Hoosiers.
Ohio State 52 Indiana 17
Ohio State’s offense ranks second in the nation in opponent-adjusted
yards per game. Indiana is 90th. Most advanced analytics systems have
the Buckeyes winning this by 19 points or so, but they don’t
necessarily know that the OSU defense is improving, while Indiana’s
offensive yards per play has basically been a line going straight down
since a win over FCS Idaho.
They’ve rushed for less than four yards per carry in every game but
one, and been held to less than six yards per pass against every Power
5 team they’ve played. So they can’t run, they can’t pass, and they’re
looking to a freshman quarterback to at least try to provide an
occasional kick-start to the offense against a defense that has had a
pick-six four games in a row.
Oh, and their program was very vocal about how they nearly beat Ohio
State last year, and how they should have gone to the Big Ten
Championship game in place of the Buckeyes due to a technicality, so
OSU isn’t likely to ease off the throttle too early.
This all adds up to a game that seems like it’s going to go great for them.
Ohio State 48 Indiana 14
Indiana has always given the Buckeyes issues. Last year, the Buckeyes took its foot off the gas and Indiana took advantage of that.
The Hoosiers on offense are eh. Losing DJ Matthews was a big blow, as well as the inconsistency at the QB position. Defensively, they’re legit. But it’s possible that they might be without their starting 2 corners.
The Buckeyes look to continue the momentum, and I think they do just that. Mayan Williams and Henderson will provide a balanced attack, and as long and Stroud and the offense doesn’t turn the ball over or make silly mistakes, and as long as the defense does its job, I think Ohio State wins this one on the road.
I also think that they intercept at least two passes.
Ohio State 38 Indiana 17
STEAMBOAT DRY GOODS PICK OF THE WEEK
Each week our members will have an opportunity to win a gift set from our friends at Steamboat Dry Goods for getting the closest to picking the score of the Ohio State game.
In case of a tie, there will be a tie-breaker each week. This week’s tie-breaker: How many COMPLETIONS will C.J. Stroud have on Saturday against Indiana?