2020 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Indiana
To think that the Buckeye’s would be immune to the impacts of COVID-19 was a hopeful thought, but as 2020 has demonstrated, and the non-flexible schedule the BIG 10 Return to Play Committee set up, there was no wiggle room for a straight 9 game schedule. Maryland had 8 players test positive, and the team suspended football activities for the week, but are expecting to play Michigan State this weekend. What might be frustrating in this scenario is that Ohio State was not allowed to find a non-conference opponent to fill the gap, and Maryland never did a follow up PCP test for the players who tested positive to confirm they had COVID. Once the Buckeyes got wind of the news on Wednesday last week, their focus quickly shifted to Indiana, who is 4-0 after beating Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State in their 4 games so far, and find themselves ranked in the top 10.
This game will be a gauge for the Hoosiers, who have found themselves in a fortunate spot with the timing of the season, and will determine if they are a contender for the playoff. This game has turned into the defacto Big Ten East title game, while the two undefeated teams remaining in the Big Ten West also play this weekend with the Wisconsin vs Northwestern match-up.
If Ohio State wins this game, their path to Indianapolis gets a lot easier, and the path to the playoff a little brighter. Their last three remaining opponents currently have a combined record of 3-9. Indiana is the only team standing in their way, and the last remaining team with a winning record on Ohio State’s regular season schedule. The game against Maryland could have helped their resume, but they have been able to look like one of the top 4 teams regardless of the opponents records.
Indiana though could continue its dream season with a win against Ohio State, who they have not beaten since 1988, and trail the overall series 75-12-4. No team though has won the Big Ten ever by beating Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State in the same season, so history is not on Indiana’s side, but 2020 has shown that anything can happen.
Big Noon Kickoff has picked this game for its game of the week, and will broadcast from the Horseshoe at 10am EST, and lead into the noon kickoff on FOX. This is the second time Big Noon Kickoff will be at Ohio Stadium this season, and the second game they have broadcasted.
Head Coach: Tom Allen
2020 Record: 4-0
Location: Bloomington, IN
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: The Buckeyes are not going to take this Hoosier team lightly, and have praised how well they have played all week leading up to the game. With just 4 regular season games left on the schedule, each game is an opportunity for this Buckeye team to show they are one of the best 4 teams in the country. They also have to hope that the team they could potentially face in Indianapolis is ranked high when they play to help build their resume, especially if they are going up against ACC and SEC teams who have played more games than them. None of that is a possibility though without a win this weekend.
Justin Fields was nearly perfect again against Rutgers. He now has 908 yards passing on 72-83 attempts. He has 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions still. He once more did not have to due much on the ground thanks for a prolific passing game, and has 57 yards on 27 carries and 2 touchdowns. His 13 touchdowns and 11 incompletions is the reason he is one of the top 3 names in Heisman consideration.
Master Teague continues to separate himself in the running back room with 211 yards on 47 carries, and has 4 touchdowns. Trey Sermon left the Rutgers game a little early, but has 172 yards on 36 carries. Steele Chambers continues to find playing time with 78 yards on 8 carries, but he will need to take care of the ball.
Garrett Wilson leads the receivers with 344 yards on 24 catches to go along with 2 touchdowns. Chris Olave is not too far behind with 288 yards on 18 catches and 4 touchdowns. Tight ends continue to be a part of the passing game, and Jeremy Ruckert has been a red zone target with 9 catches for 60 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The defense has let some big plays happen, and will need to be more opportunistic with only having 5 turnovers through 3 games, and will need to put pressure on Penix to make mistakes.
Indiana Preview: Tom Allen has the trust of the team, and has been building momentum within the program since taking over. The power teams that are normally at the top are having off years, but that should not make what Indiana is doing any less impressive. They have had favorable field position and created a lot of turnovers on defense due to the pressure they have been able to put on opposing quarterbacks. They enter this game as 3 touchdown underdogs, but are hoping to keep the game close into the 4th, and find a way to get the upset, and end another streak that is over 20 years old.
Michael Penix Jr has been the heart of the offense, and has 1070 yards passing on 91/150 attempts. He has 9 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions on the season, and has 2 rushing touchdowns. His biggest play of the year is still the 2 point conversion stretch to beat Penn State at the start of the season.
Stevie Scott III has been the bell cow for the rushing attack with 319 yards on 88 carries and 5 touchdowns. Sampson James is also involved in the running game with 84 yards on 26 carries.
Similar to Ohio State, the strength of the Hoosiers is in their receiving corp, and this might be the matchup to watch for this game, as they go against the Buckeye secondary. Ty Fryfogle has 424 yards on 24 catches and 4 touchdowns. Whop Philyor also has 24 catches for the season, to go along with 287 yards and a touchdown. Peyton Hendershot, who made a big play against the Buckeyes last year, is the next favorite target with 14 catches and 69 yards, along with 3 touchdowns.
The defense has forced 12 turnovers, including 10 interceptions. They will have to create some chaos for Fields, who is not known for turning the ball over, if they want to keep this game close.
Buckeye Spotlight: Shaun Wade. Deviating from the offense for a moment, this is a game where Shaun Wade can make a name for himself again. He has had a few bad plays the first 3 games, which had cost the defense in giving up points. If he can lead the young secondary this week, and force bad passes for Penix, the defense should be able to keep this gam from getting close.
Hoosiers Spotlight: Michael Penix Jr. The sophomore quarterback was injured for last years match up, but his play has been the reason why Indiana is in the position it is at so far this season. He is able to attack the secondary, and extend plays with his legs. His only weakness has been the deep ball.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 99. Ohio State will be playing its 99th top 10 match up game since the start of the AP Poll. Only Oklahoma has as many top 10 games in their 84 year time span. Ohio State has a 53-41-4 record in the previous 98 games.
Prediction: Indiana has been very opportunistic against quarterbacks that have made mistakes, but Justin Fields is on a different level than those other players. Ohio State will be hungry after having a week off due to an unexpected cancelation from Maryland. Justin Fields will have a chance to prove he is one of the best players in the country with a paper top 10 match up. If the defense can play man against the Hoosier receivers and force Penix to make throws in tighter windows, they should have a chance to prevent this game closer than it needs to be. Its easy to forget that Ohio State won this game last year 51-10 in Bloomington, but Day will have his team even more prepared with the extra time to game plan.
Ohio State 56 – Indiana 17