COLUMBUS, Ohio — Indiana got Ohio State’s attention with a 24-21 overtime win against Michigan State, but Urban Meyer still isn’t taking any chances.
His over-the-top praise of the Hoosiers started on Monday. The fifth-year Ohio State coach noted in his press conference that he thought this was Indiana’s best team since he’s been in Columbus. He was specifically impressed by Indiana’s win against the Spartans but didn’t mention that one week before then the Hoosiers had lost to perennial doormat Wake Forest.
“I think they’ve got an excellent coaching staff and you can see some really positive, really good things on videotape,” he said. “Their game Saturday (against Michigan State), that was a great win for that program.”
His players and assistants reinforced that line of thinking throughout the week, and then Meyer doubled down on the stance during his call-in show Thursday. When asked about the Hoosiers, he asserted that he thought this will be the best defense the Buckeyes have faced this season. It was an eye-popping comment, not just because the Hoosiers have historically been defensively challenged, but also because Ohio State has faced 2015 College Football Playoff participant Oklahoma this season.
So how does Indiana ultimately stack up? Here’s our look at what to expect when the teams square off at 3:30 p.m. ET.
When Ohio State has the ball
Meyer is clearly a fan of what the Hoosiers have done defensively this season, but there’s no reason to worry about his offense given the vast array of weapons at his disposal. Indiana’s best chance of stopping the Buckeyes will be to clamp down on the running game and force Ohio State to go to the air on a more consistent basis. And that’s something simply nobody has been able to do thus far.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett, running back Mike Weber, H-back Curtis Samuel and Ohio State’s army of wide receivers are far better than any offense Indiana has faced thus far. Given that the Hoosiers’ defensive ranks (40th in scoring defense and 51st in total defense) were middle of the pack to begin with, it doesn’t bode well for Indiana.
Edge: Ohio State
When Indiana has the ball
Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is a very skilled offensive coach, but the Hoosiers haven’t been overpowering this year. Contrast that with the Ohio State defense, which has outscored opposing offenses this season. Speaking of scoring, that’s been a problem for the Hoosiers this season. Indiana is tied for 121st in red-zone offense this season, having scored on nine of 14 red-zone trips with only four of those ending in touchdowns. The best red-zone defense in the country? That would belong to Ohio State.
Edge: Ohio State
For the second straight week, the Buckeyes are facing a horrendous punting team. The Hoosiers are 108th nationally in net punting, while Ohio State is second. Indiana has an advantage in the kicking game thanks to Griffin Oakes, but his inconsistencies have mitigated that, at least slightly.
Until the Buckeyes play Alabama, this answer will probably be Ohio State. However, Wilson will provide a stiffer test than at least three of the four coaches Ohio State has faced to this point, so don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes are forced into some adjustments.
Edge: Ohio State
Indiana could very well live up to Meyer’s praise, but it’s unlikely. Ohio State is one of the most talented teams in the country and is fully capable of punishing the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes are better on both sides of the ball, and by the fourth quarter this one shouldn’t be close.
Ben Axelrod’s prediction: Ohio State 49, Indiana 24
Jeremy Birmingham’s prediction: Ohio State 45, Indiana 24
Ryan Ginn’s prediction: Ohio State 52, Indiana 20