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Tale of the Tape: Indiana

Going into the 2021 season many people had “this game” pegged as “the game” in the Big Ten, or at least the Big Ten East. Not Penn State, not Michigan, certainly not Michigan State but the game between the Buckeyes and Hoosiers. Everyone remembers the last time that Ohio State and Indiana matched up.

The Buckeyes have somewhat lived up to their end of the bargain, a week two stumble may have knocked a little luster off of things, but nobody is hotter than Ohio State over the course of their last few games.

And then there is Indiana, coming into this one at 2-4, on a two-game losing streak and while the Hoosiers played undefeated Michigan State close, it still counts as a loss.

Ryan Day’s team opens as a 19-point favorite according to several offshore books, but that is nothing new. The Buckeyes have never been smaller than a 17-point favorite in this game over the last 10 contests. Of course, the Buckeyes were a 21-point favorite last year and saw Indiana throwing in the final moments with an opportunity to tie the game at Ohio Stadium.

Historically this series has been one of the biggest one-sided affairs in terms of long-time conference mates with Ohio State winning 77 of the past 94 contests, you have to go back to 1990 for the last time that Ohio State did not win this game (a 27-all tie) and back to 1988 for the last time that Ohio State actually lost this game (a 41-7 loss in Bloomington).

What are we to make of this game in 2021? Ohio State is a team on the rise while Indiana seems to be fading away, potentially down its star quarterback and flawed on many fronts.

We go to the Tale of the Tape to put this game in focus and see if the previous six Indiana games give us any insight into what may happen on Saturday night.

Ohio StateStatRankIndianaStatRank
Rush Defense131.3 YPG47thRush Offense124.2 YPG98th
Pass Eff. Defense123.3643rdPass Offense215.8 YPG88th
Scoring Defense20.5 PPG40thScoring Offense22.3 PPG107th

Ohio State Defensive Backs vs. Indiana QB/WR/TE

A big question here will be the status of Cam Brown, who Ryan Day says should be good to go, but after apparently getting his bell rung, exited the Maryland game. The Indiana game will not necessarily be an all-hands-on-deck type of game with the Hoosiers No. 88 in throwing the ball and No. 128 (out of 130) in passing efficiency, but as the Buckeyes come off of the open week, they need to get the foot back on the gas to begin the six (or seven) game sprint to the finish line of December. The Buckeyes are in the midst of a four-game streak of returning interceptions for touchdowns, this could be a game where that streak moves to five with the Hoosiers throwing ten picks over the course of six games. Indiana has been one of the more successful passing teams, in terms of yards, against Ohio State over the years and as we look back over the past 10 contests, Indiana has thrown for more than 300 yards in five of those games (2020, 2018, 2017, 2013, 2012) and gone for more than 400 in two with Michael Penix throwing for 491 in 2020 and a platoon of Richard Lagow and Payton Ramsey going for 420 in 2017.

As of the time that this was written, Michael Penix was listed as the starting quarterback with Jack Tuttle in the back-up role. Penix did not play last week against Michigan State and the Indiana offense threw for 188 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Depth charts are not worth the paper that they are printed on however and with Penix dealing with the aftereffects of a separated shoulder, it may not be a quick return. The big X-Factor here is Indiana’s decision not to redshirt highly-regarded quarterback Donaven McCulley. Look for IU to employ some plays for the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder in the game, regardless of it being Penix or Tuttle in the game. A side note on Tuttle, he was Chris Olave’s high school quarterback. Regardless of who is at quarterback, through six games the numbers have not been good. A 53-percent passing completion rate, five touchdowns against 10 picks, 12 sacks and just a lethargic passing offense. Ty Fryfogle is the main weapon in the receiving corps, but even his numbers are down from what was expected with 33 catches for 337 yards and just one touchdown. In fact, no pass catcher has more than one touchdown for the Hoosiers. Tight end Peyton Hendershot is going to be a challenge for the Ohio State defense, 24 catches for 306 yards and a score, but again, not the type of numbers that would have been expected going into the year. Three other receivers are in the double-digit catch category, but this is the thing to remember about this Indiana team… they are not very good at running the ball and if the offense is going to flourish or flounder on the pass, it shows why this team is 2-4 so far this season because the passing numbers have not been great and while the defense for the Hoosiers is pretty good, it is not shutting teams out and the offense is not putting up enough points to pull out wins. For a team that is supposed to make it with the pass, IU has not really done that. Sure, the Hoosiers threw for 373 yards against WKU, but it also took 53 attempts. IU did throw for 224 yards against Cincinnati, but that took 40 attempts and that was with just 17 completions and three interceptions along the way. IU has been an interception machine, when they happen, they happen in bunches. IU has thrown three picks in two games and two picks in two games including its last two games.

Ohio State Linebackers vs. Indiana Running Backs

There are not a lot of individual players to talk about here as the Buckeyes have six healthy scholarship linebackers and we could say all the same things that we have been saying over the last couple of weeks about Steele Chambers and how he has emerged at the position. We had the chance to talk to Al Washington earlier this week and he saw Chambers flash early at the position. But the Buckeyes now have in that mix of six players a former running back and a player in Palaie Gaoteote that didn’t learn his NCAA fate until the season had already started. Freshman Reid Carrico is getting closer to being game ready but coming from smaller Ohio high school division football (Ironton) to Big Ten play is a big leap and it has taken a little bit of time. Ohio State’s run defense has been pretty good as of late but before anyone cramps up from patting themselves on the back, of the last four teams, only Tulsa had a top-50 rushing offense and Ohio State’s best defense against the run was its lack of defense against the pass as Tulsa threw for more than 425 yards in that game. Maryland was No. 87 running the ball, Rutgers was No. 92 and Akron was just Akron, at No. 115 in the nation.

Former USC running back Stephen Carr has been a welcome addition to the rushing attack and his 439 yards on 121 attempts and four scores are significant to the Indiana offense. And by significant, we mean almost the entirety of IU’s rushing numbers. Penix has a pair of rushing touchdowns but sack yardage adjusted numbers have him in the negative yardage range. Tim Baldwin Jr. was the change of pace back and has 103 yards on 28 carries but is not listed on the depth chart this week. Davion Ervin-Poindexter saw some action in the Michigan State game and has 13 carries for 97 yards. Even with all of that, IU is not last in the Big Ten in rushing as the Hoosiers are 12th with 124.2 yards per game, better than Iowa and Purdue. Illinois and Purdue have fewer rushing touchdowns than Indiana (tied with Penn State at 8), but when you total up rush and pass, IU’s 15 touchdowns through six games is near the bottom of the league with Wisconsin (six games) and Illinois (five games) bringing up the rear. Carr is 10th in the league in rushing yards per game but his 3.6 YPC average has him well behind league leaders. Indiana has not broken the 200-yard mark this season, even in its game against I-FCS Idaho, only getting to 179 yards. The Hoosiers have been held below 100 yards in a pair of games and have been kept out of the endzone in a pair of those games. To IU’s credit however, four of its six games have come against top-40 rush defenses, Ohio State ranks No. 48.

Ohio State Defensive Line vs. Indiana Offensive Line

It always comes down to line play and it is going to be no different here. We don’t see this being a case of it determining the outcome of the game (at least we hope not) but rather if this is going to be a two quarter game or a four quarter game. The Buckeyes got after Maryland before the open week to the tune of five sacks and nine TFLs and while “it was only Maryland” it was still good to get some momentum going, even if you didn’t have a game immediately following up. It has been a wait-and-see proposition on the Ohio State defensive line, when will this unit get it going? Did we see a glimpse of that last week? For young players like Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau to get into the stats book with sacks, it is not only a view into the future but into the present. If the production is not there with the older players, maybe it is time for the young players to get more run. Granted, it was only Maryland, and Ohio State did not come into that game with its full roster of defensive players, so Indiana will be a real gut-check game for players who have been in the system for years as the Buckeyes need to start showing more consistency from the position than they have through the previous six games.

Indiana has a pretty solid offensive line, so it is shocking to read that the Hoosiers have given up 12 sacks. Is it more of a case of pass pro breaking down, Michael Penix attempting to extend plays out too long, a combination of the two, something else? Right Tackle Caleb Jones is a beast at 6-foot-8, 362-pounds and while he will never line up across from Ohio State’s Dawand Jones, we would like to see the pair in some sort of wrestling match. The one thing of note here is that Jones is usually the left tackle, but has been moved to right on the depth chart. Jones used to be a right tackle, was moved to left with Matthew Bedford moving to right. Now Bedford has slid inside to guard, Luke Haggard is your new left tackle and Jones is back to right. Got all of that? It has been a shuffle since week ones and the only consistent name appears to be left guard Mike Katic, a RS-Sophomore. Even week one right guard Dylan Powell has moved inside to center. Ohio State has been able to move pieces because of its depth, we are not sure that this is the same situation in Indiana with all of its movement.

Ohio StateStatRankIndianaStatRank
Rush Offense211.0 YPG22ndRush Defense125.5 YPG38th
Pass Offense352.2 YPG8thPass Eff. Defense120.4336th
Scoring Offense48.5 PPG2ndScoring Defense26.8 PPG76th

Ohio State QB/WR/TE vs. Indiana Defensive Backs

Yes, the Ohio State offense is really, really good. No, we have not seen them tested against many top defenses to this point of the season. Is the Indiana defense one of those defenses? Maybe? We will get into that as we go on. C.J. Stroud is throwing for 340 yards per game (remember, he has only played in five, not six after missing the Akron game to rest his ailing shoulder). 18 touchdowns against three interceptions and honestly many of the negative numbers were prior to the rest for the shoulder. Stroud’s numbers could be larger if he played more, but Ohio State has had the benefit of not having to play Stroud deep into games over the past couple of weeks. Stroud’s completion percentage is 66.2-percent but if you look at his action since taking the Akron game off, he is throwing at a 73.2-percent completion rate, has thrown for 736 yards with 10 touchdowns, zero picks and has not been sacked in either game. Yes, Rutgers is 61st and Maryland is 104th in passing yards allowed, and while the passing efficiency defense numbers are somewhat better, Indiana is significantly better on both fronts through six games. We now can get into the numbers of how Garrett Wilson (31-546-6), Chris Olave (30-494-7) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (23-452-3) are really, really good. But you know that already. You are here for the Buckeyes and we don’t have to keep going over the numbers, or do we? This could end up being a really long day for IU and we will explain that here in the next paragraph.

Indiana could be without one or two starters in the secondary for this game as head coach Tom Allen announced earlier in the week that corners Taiwan Mullen and Reese Taylor may not be able to go but that he remains “hopeful” that they will play. It is bad enough losing one starting corner against a competent passing team, but both? Ohio State knows a thing or two about having to shuffle the roster, it didn’t have Cam Brown or Sevyn Banks in week one, but Minnesota’s passing game does not equal Ohio State’s passing game, so this could be a major problem. So, who are the names you might need to know if one or both can’t go? Noah Pierre and Jaylin Williams are the next players on the depth chart, and they could be in for a long, long day. Only two opponents have passed for more than 200 yards against the Hoosiers this year, Cincinnati went for 210 yards and WKU, the nation’s top passing team, threw for 365 yards. But while a team like Penn State only threw for 199 yards, the Nittany Lions also struck for three passing touchdowns, reminding us that this game is not determined by yards but rather by points. As we mentioned, WKU leads the nation in passing offense (Ohio State is 8th) but outside of that, IU has not faced any teams in the top-30 throwing the ball with three of the four remaining FBS teams ranking 50th or lower. We are getting to the point of the season now where the numbers are starting to fill in and a bad outing against IU should not be over-weighted to skew the numbers. IU has had one test against a passing team and while the Hoosiers secured the win, it was close, WKU threw for a lot and WKU cannot run the ball. The Buckeyes are by far the most well-rounded teams offensively that the Hoosiers will face with no other team on the schedule of games played ranking top-30 in both run and pass.

Ohio State Running Backs vs. Indiana Linebackers

It is hard to believe that with all of the hype, Heisman darkhorse talk and everything else around TreVeyon Henderson that he only has 69 carries as a rusher for the Buckeyes. Yes, he had an impactful number of catches two weeks ago against Maryland but the excitement of Henderson at running back is unlike anything we have seen since maybe Ezekiel Elliott started to pick up steam in 2014. 13-percent of Henderson’s carries have resulted in touchdowns and he is averaging 8.8 YPC. Now is going to be the time of the season where the Buckeyes are going to need more out of their first year player. With rumors swirling about what the remainder of the season may look like for Marcus Crowley, the running back room could be taking a hit and that means that everyone needs to be ready. Master Teague has handled his role very well this season and while his 253 yards don’t jump off the page, he still has three touchdowns and gives the Buckeyes that power back when needed. Miyan Williams has been out of the lineup for a couple of weeks but expectations are for a return here in the near term. The Buckeyes are rushing for 211 yards per game, something that seems to get lost with all of the excitement around the throw game, but it is the run game that allows Ohio State to have that passing attack and if you look at the Maryland game, when the Terps were bound and determined not to let the run game beat them, the Buckeyes were more than happy to oblige with the passing game.

Indiana has faced two of the worst rushing offenses in the conference with Penn State and Iowa and you would expect to see great numbers versus both of those teams. Right? Wrong. Iowa ran for 158 yards and two scores while Penn State ran for 209 yards, and while they were kept out of the end zone, it helped the Nittany Lions hold a time of possession edge in the game, a 24-0 shutout. Penn State is the only team this season to attempt more than 40 carries against IU with the other five teams averaging right around 30 carries per game. The point that I am trying to make here is that there has not been a good rushing team that has really tried to test Indiana on the ground. Three of IU’s six opponents rank in the bottom-40 nationally carrying the ball and Ohio State’s 211 yards per game on the ground (22nd in the nation) will be the biggest test to date this season. One of the best names on this team is at linebacker with Micah McFadden. He leads the team in tackles, is tied for the team lead in sacks (3.5) and leads the team in TFLs. Cam Jones flanks him and is another player to keep an eye on but McFadden really is the emotional leader of this defense.

Ohio State Offensive Line vs. Indiana Defensive Line

We knew going into this season that the Ohio State offensive line was going to be pretty good but even we didn’t realize just how deep this unit was going to be. Harry Miller is still working his way back and the Buckeyes have not missed a beat with Luke Wypler holding things down. Matt Jones has been a super sub and we really can’t find a way to take him off the field, but you can generally only play five linemen. And the scary thing is, there are some guys on Ohio State’s two-deep who could step up and perform at a high level and make an even deeper log jam for the line. The Buckeyes have given up two sacks over the course of the last two games and neither of those sacks were against Stroud, so the pass protection has been there and of course the run blocking has been tremendous as of late. The Buckeyes were able to weather the storm of Maryland’s league leading sack total and Rutgers was No. 4 in the conference, so it is not as if the Buckeyes have loaded up against a bunch of tomato cans. Indiana is 13th in the league in sacks, but that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes can look past these guys, but nine sacks over six games is nothing to write home about.

Ole Miss transfer lineman Ryder Anderson has had a big impact on the IU line with 3.5 sacks, seven TFLs and a forced fumble. Welcome to the new world of the portal and getting immediate help for an area of need. Defensive tackle Weston Kramer also fits that bill as a portal transfer from Northern Illinois and if you look at the starting four linemen for IU, a pair of transfer portal players, Demarcus Elliott is a JUCO transfer and only Alfred Bryant can claim to be a player that signed with IU out of high school. There are not a lot of known names out of this unit to Ohio State fans, and the production numbers are not really there, but IU sometimes plays out of its mind against Ohio State and that is why the Buckeyes have to take this team seriously because did anyone really see 2012’s 52-49 game coming? Unfortunately for Indiana, there are no more Replogle brothers left to play defense and it seems highly unlikely that the IU defense will land five sacks and 10 TFLs in this one.

CategoryOhio StateRankIndianaRank
Net Punt42.57 YPP20th37.45 YPP91st
Punt Return4.08 YPR111th14.88 YPR15th
Kickoff Return28.67 YPR15th23.56 YPR34th
FG Percentage6-6 (100%)N/A10-12 (83.3%)N/A

The Buckeyes are getting closer to breaking a kickoff return with Emeka Egbuka. Would anyone be shocked if he does break one this season, maybe as soon as this weekend? The Buckeyes have punted the ball 14 times this season, 10 fewer times than the next closest opponent (Michigan). Indiana has punted it 31 times. Of all of the players on the team, Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles gets very little mention but all he has done is remained perfect not only in PATs but field goals, granted the Buckeyes have only averaged one FG per game. If Reese Taylor is unable to go, that hurts the punt return game for the Hoosiers with DJ Matthews having to step up.