Hoosiers, Buckeyes face off in Columbus in matchup of undefeated, top-10 teams
The date was Oct. 10, 1987. Ronald Reagan was in his second term as president of the United States. The song "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake was the No. 1 song in America. A gallon of gas cost around 90 cents. And the Indiana Hoosiers soundly defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 31-10 in Columbus, prompting then-Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce to declare, "This is the darkest day in Ohio State football since I have been associated with it."
Indiana also was victorious against Ohio State in then-Buckeyes head football coach John Cooper's first year, 1988 (41-7). Ohio State defeated Indiana 35-31 in 1989, then the teams played to an inglorious tie in 1990, 27-27. Since then, Ohio State has been on a dominant winning streak, winning every game played from 1991 through 2019.
Yes, there have been several close calls where Indiana almost pulled off the upset, most notably in Bloomington in recent years (2012 – Ohio State 52, Indiana 49; 2015 – Ohio State 34, Indiana 27), but a victory in Columbus has been fleeting. Indiana would love nothing more than to repeat one of the greatest moments in Hoosier football history when the two undefeated teams meet in Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For what it is worth, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day seems bound and determined not to allow "Darkest Day III" to occur on his watch, or at least, not this season. Day sounds like a coach who has complete respect for Indiana, and for the challenges that they will present to the Buckeyes.
Ryan Day is here to preview the Indiana game.— BuckeyeScoop (@BuckeyeScoop) November 17, 2020
He says Indiana has the benefit of playing four straight weeks, and while they did everything they could to replicate that, it's been a challenge. pic.twitter.com/PzgKkloaBU
No. 9 Indiana at No. 3 Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio State -20.5
When Indiana Has the Ball
Indiana is led by Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback, and the results for the Hoosiers this season speak for themselves. Besides leading the Hoosiers to a 4-0 record, Penix has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns against three interceptions.
Penix has a strong supporting cast, in both the running and receiving groups. Running backs Stevie Scott III and Sampson James have emerged as capable backs who help sustain drives, especially in short-yardage situations. Among the receivers, Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor both lead the Hoosiers with 24 receptions each. Another crucial member of the Hoosier receiving group is tight end Peyton Hendershot, who has 14 receptions and three touchdowns this season. For an Ohio State secondary that had struggles in their last game against Rutgers, it will bear watching to see what adjustments the Buckeyes have made since that game. Indiana's success in the passing game has certainly earned the respect and attention of Ohio State safety Josh Proctor.
Proctor says Indiana's wide receiver corps' athleticism really stands out this year.— BuckeyeScoop (@BuckeyeScoop) November 17, 2020
He says overall, the defensive backfield is going in the right direction, but they have to keep improving. pic.twitter.com/HLdLC194Uf
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Justin Fields is off to a sensational start in 2020, with the same number of touchdowns as he has incompletions — 11. Combined with zero interceptions and a completion percentage that is nearly 87 percent, it is apparent why Fields is being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate this season.
The Ohio State running game is waiting on a back to emerge as the dominant player to carry the load. Master Teague III and Trey Sermon are both averaging better than four yards per carry (Teague 4.5; Sermon 4.8), but neither has established themselves as the type of back who will wear the opposing defense down.
The Ohio State passing game, led by the aforementioned Fields, has had no problem with explosive plays in 2020. Garrett Wilson (24 rec., 2 TD, 14.3 ypr) and Chris Olave (18, 4, 16.0) are exploiting opposing secondaries this season. Compounding the challenge for defenses is junior tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who has been quite successful in the red zone, with three touchdowns among his nine receptions this year. For an Indiana defense that has been limiting opponents to only 210 passing yards and 19 points a game, the Buckeyes are going to present a formidable test.
Ohio State is on full upset alert, especially after its game at Maryland was abruptly canceled last week. Indiana has played itself into a top-10 ranking, and will not be overlooked by the Buckeyes, especially after the Hoosiers shut out Michigan State last week (24-0). Indiana will do their best to slow the game down to a pace of their liking but look for Ohio State to pull away late in the game, giving the Buckeyes the edge in the Big Ten East race.
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Indiana 17
Podcast: Week 12 Preview and Predictions