COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State hasn’t lost to Indiana in the lifetime of any of its current players, but that doesn’t mean the Hoosiers don’t present a challenge.
Indiana gave Ohio State all it could handle in both 2012 and 2015, and OSU head coach Urban Meyer believes this year’s team is the best Indiana has fielded during the six years Kevin Wilson has been the head coach. Here are five things to watch for as Ohio State attempts to keep rolling when the Hoosiers come to town Saturday.
1. How it starts
Ohio State has not gotten off to great starts at home this season, most notably against Tulsa (a 3-3 tie after one quarter) and Rutgers (a 6-0 lead after one quarter). Obviously the Buckeyes rebounded in both cases to romp against the overmatched foes, but Indiana presents a more formidable test and is more likely to make the Buckeyes pay for letting an opponent hang around.
2. Penalty parade
The Buckeyes and Hoosiers are two of the worst teams in the country when it comes to avoiding penalties. Indiana ranks 109th in fewest penalties per game with 8.25 while Ohio State ranks 114 with an 8.75 average. Indiana’s opponents have gained eight first downs via penalty while Ohio State’s have gained five. If one team manages to clean up its performance in that category, it could make a difference.
3. Ohio State’s pass defense
The nation’s No. 1 pass efficiency defense belongs to Ohio State, but Indiana should be the Buckeyes’ biggest test to date. Led by quarterback Richard Lagow, the Hoosiers are No. 17 in passing offense and No. 19 in team passing efficiency. Even though they didn’t generate any turnovers, the Buckeyes are coming off of arguably their best performance of the season after holding Rutgers to 3 completions in 16 attempts.
4. Red zone execution
Indiana won’t be able to trade touchdowns for field goals against Ohio State, which is bad news for a team that has struggled in the red zone this season. The Hoosiers have scored on just nine of 14 red-zone attempts this season, with only six of those ending with touchdowns. They’ll be going up against the nation’s best red zone defense. In eight trips to the red zone by OSU opponents, Ohio State has allowed just three field goals and one touchdown.
5. Preparing for a fight
Above all else, this outcome will be determined by the preparation of the two teams. Ohio State has shown through four games that it can be an absolutely relentless machine, but Indiana has found the recipe for frustrating the Buckeyes in recent outings. Meyer seems to be making sure his players are ready for what could be a stiff test.
“I think they’ve got an excellent coaching staff and you can see some really positive, really good things on video tape,” he said. “I see an outstanding team.”