Indiana vs. Ohio State: Game Preview, Prediction and Players to Watch
Ohio State opened conference play with a dominant 58-0 win over Rutgers last Saturday, and Urban Meyer and Co. will look to continue that momentum this weekend when they host a surging Indiana team.
The No. 2 Buckeyes (4-0) piled up 669 yards of total offense and surrendered just 116 to the Scarlet Knights, while not allowing a single pass completion after the opening quarter. But later that evening, the Hoosiers (3-1) may have registered the upset of the Big Ten regular season, beating No. 17 Michigan State in a 24-21 overtime thriller.
Now heading into enemy territory, the Hoosiers will try and spoil the season of another Big Ten East Division contender when they travel to Columbus for their showdown with the Buckeyes. Indiana has played Ohio State surprisingly close over the last couple of years, as it held a fourth-quarter lead over the eventual national champs in 2014 and had a chance to tie the game on the final play last season.
Can they put more pressure on Ohio State this Saturday, or will the Buckeyes continue to roll?
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Spread: Ohio State (-32), per Odds Shark
Ohio State's Keys to Victory
Get It Done Early
As it proved against Michigan State, Indiana isn't a team you want hanging around in the second half.
The Spartans were heavy favorites over the Hoosiers but they came out uninspired, missing a field goal, giving up a fumble and punting twice in the first half. They still found themselves up with a 7-0 halftime lead, and later added another score to go up 14-0, but Indiana was close enough to strike back.
Ohio State will go into Saturday's game as an even bigger favorite over Indiana, but it should learn from Michigan State's costly mistake and put the Hoosier's light out early.
The Buckeyes have been nearly flawless in the first half, though, as they've outscored their opponents 120-30.
Keep Spreading the Wealth
Ohio State is not a one-trick pony.
That was certainly the case last year, as a struggling passing attack and lack of identity forced the Buckeyes into riding Ezekiel Elliott more than it should have. That strategy worked for the most part because Elliott was just that good, but it robbed the Ohio State team from the balance and depth it could have rolled out offensively.
With Elliott gone, Meyer and the Buckeyes coaching staff have been forced to highlight that depth, which has produced one of the most potent and well-rounded attacks in the country. Ohio State ranks third nationally in scoring offense with an average of 57.0 points and fourth in total offense with 576.3 yards per game.
Last week against Rutgers, the Buckeyes scored an incredible eight touchdowns, but even more impressive was that each score came from a different offensive playmaker.
Indiana's Keys to Victory
Keep It Ugly
In the past, when Indiana was winning, it was behind the strength of a high-flying, pass-heavy offense. But in its big win over Michigan State last weekend, the Hoosiers rolled their sleeves up and got down and dirty with the Spartans, winning not with a gimmick, spread offense, but behind the strength of a stronger-than-expected and inspired defense.
The Hoosiers gave up plenty of yards, surrendering 438 to the Spartans, but they were strong when they needed to be in turning the offense away on 11 of 15 third-down opportunities while forcing a fumble and five punts.
Indiana has been a middle-of-the-pack defense, ranking No. 51 in total defense through four games. It was at its best against the Spartans, though, and will need a similar performance against Ohio State's red-hot offense.
Find A Balance
Ohio State's offense has been one of the most impressive units in all of college football this season, but its young defense isn't far behind.
After losing three first-round players in defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Eli Apple, as well as five other starters, the Buckeyes are somehow more dominant this year, ranking No. 1 nationally in scoring defense, No. 3 in total defense, No. 6 in passing defense and No. 12 in rushing defense.
The Hoosiers have to find some way of cracking through that brick wall. They won't do it with a one-dimensional attack, so head coach Kevin Wilson needs to strike a perfect balance between his consistently strong passing attack and a running game that's surging with running back Devine Redding.
Ohio State Players to Watch
Ohio State came into the season with big questions at running back with the early NFL departure of Ezekiel Elliott and the sudden dismissal of senior Bri'onte Dunn.
With little depth, that left the position almost solely in the hands of Mike Weber, a redshirt freshman who hadn't taken a single snap in a collegiate football game.
The first-year back has answered the bell in a big way, though. The 5'10", 212-pound bulldozer is on pace to run for nearly 1,500 yards in the regular season alone after posting 495 yards through the first four games.
He was at his best against Rutgers, when he registered a career-high 144 yards and a touchdown, including two runs of 40-plus yards. The young back seems to be gaining momentum, and he'll be facing an Indiana defense this Saturday that's surrendering an average of 139.5 yards per game this year.
Urban Meyer is clearly easing Nick Bosa into the Buckeyes' rotation, but the younger brother of former superstar defensive end Joey Bosa is starting to show that he's more than ready to handle the speed of the game at this level.
After getting late fourth-quarter work in Ohio State's games against Bowling Green and Tulsa, Nick entered into the game earlier against Oklahoma and Rutgers. He's answered with some big plays, and he's currently tied with Tyquan Lewis for the team lead with two sacks.
Back in 2013, during Joey's first year, it was game No. 5 when he took over a starting role and never looked back. And while Nick isn't at that level quite yet, he's proving to be a valuable asset in the Buckeyes' defensive line rotation.
Indiana Players to Watch
If Indiana pulls the upset, it'll be because Richard Lagow put on the performance of his life.
The junior quarterback from Plano, Texas, had the tall order of replacing Nate Sudfeld, who threw for nearly 8,000 yards and 61 touchdowns for the Hoosiers.
Lagow has been good in his first four games as a starter, completing 62.2 percent of his passes while throwing nine touchdowns. But while he's flashed for the Hoosiers, he's also prone to make some big mistakes as he's thrown six interceptions already, five of which came in Indiana's 33-28 loss to Wake Forest.
He took much better care of the ball a week later against Michigan State, but now he'll be facing one of the most ball-hawking secondaries in college football, as Ohio State ranks third nationally in interceptions per game.
Indiana's defensive improvement is in large part due to the play of junior linebacker Tegray Scales.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native currently leads the Hoosiers in tackles (35), tackles for loss (5.5), sacks (2) and is tied for the team lead with one interception. He's making plays in every phase of the defense, and he's coming off an incredible 13-tackle performance in Indiana's overtime upset of Michigan State.
The defensive playmaker knows that his performance against the Spartans can carry over to Columbus.
"It's a big momentum boost for us," Scales said, according to the team's official website. "I think to move forward, we just have to continue to do what we've been doing to give us that success."
What They're Saying
[Weber]'s a banger. It's a thumper and a plus yardage guy most of the time. Zeke was too. (Weber) Doesn't have the top end that Zeke has. We're working on that. And Carlos is a great back. We have been fortunate. I think Mike falls right in that category.
Indiana's marquee win over Michigan State gave the Hoosiers a lot of confidence heading into the Ohio State game.
"Again, what comes first, the confidence or the winning," head coach Kevin Wilson asked, according to the team's official website. "The more confident you are, the more you win, the more you win, the more confident you are."
Indiana gave Ohio State all it could handle in a 34-27 Buckeyes victory last year, so the team knows what the Hoosiers are capable of.
“We kind of knew that Indiana was good from last year,” linebacker Chris Worley said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. “Just watching film on them now, they have a really good team.”
It won't be as easy as it was against Rutgers, but Ohio State will cruise to a big win over Indiana.
J.T. Barrett will throw for 260 yards and two touchdowns, but the Buckeyes will do most of their damage on the ground, where Weber will lead the charge against an overmatched Hoosiers front seven. The Buckeyes running back will register a career-high 150 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries as Ohio State amasses 350 total on the ground.
Lagow will have an up-and-down day. He'll throw a pair of touchdown passes to leading receivers Nick Westbrook and Ricky Jones, but Ohio State's stingy defense will get the last laugh when Gareon Conley snags an interception and returns it for a touchdown.
Ohio State will score the game's final 20 points but will fall just short of covering the 32-point spread.
Ohio State 48, Indiana 20