The Ohio State football season will be here before you know it, and even if you’ve only been paying semi-close attention this offseason, you’re probably aware of the major storylines with the program. This is going to be an exceptionally young, but talented and athletic team. There’s a lack of proven production at wideout, running back, and defensive back. They return the best QB in the conference, and should at least compete for a Big Ten title.
But you may not know a lot about the specific teams on Ohio State’s schedule. We’ll get into a lot more detail before the actual games, but you may want a primer so you can sound smart at the bar, or at the barbecue, or in the grocery store checkout line.
So take a look at Ohio State’s opponents this year. Next up, the Buckeye’s first Big Ten home opponent, Indiana.
I didn’t watch a lot of Indiana football last year. What did I miss?
Boy howdy, did you miss a lot. Indiana wasn’t all that great last season, but they weren’t called CHAOS TEAM by the college football internet because they played staid, boring, predictable football. Nearly every week, the Hoosiers were involved in some sort of bedlam, and typically, it resulted in heartbreak for Indiana.
The Hoosiers were *this close* to finally upsetting Ohio State last season, getting to 1st-and-goal with under a minute left, trailing by only a touchdown, before imploding. They had Michigan by the throat, before giving up an inopportune bomb late in the game, and eventually fell in overtime. They led Rutgers by approximately a billion points before somehow blowing that game, too.
Despite all of that heartbreak, Indiana did actually make a bowl game last year. Of course, that bowl game had to end in a very Indiana fashion, with a questionable missed field goal against Duke.
Indiana scored a lot of points. They gave up slightly more points, especially late in the game. Virtually every event was a white knuckle showdown, and even with some key departures, Indiana isn’t exactly going to turn into Minnesota this season. Y’all should probably tune in a bit.
So, how is Indiana going to score points this season? Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard are gone
It’s true, the nexus of the Hoosier offense from last season, QB Nate Sudfeld (who was #actually very good), and RB Jordan Howard (low-key one of the best players in the country last season), are gone. But that doesn’t mean Indiana is bereft of talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Indiana returns their top three pass-catching targets, including Simmie Cobbs Jr, who caught over 1,000 yards last season, and could be the most prolific wideout in the Big Ten by the time the dust settles on this season. Howard is gone, but the Hoosiers return Devine Redding (who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year) and Mike Majette, who will get carries as well. And while an All-American left tackle, Jason Spriggs, is gone, Indiana has another All-American offensive lineman, (Dan Feeney), and multiple other experienced options. Kevin Wilson has done an excellent job at building and developing all manner of offensive talent during is Indiana tenure, especially offensive linemen.
Perhaps the biggest question, then, is who plays quarterback.
Who are the options?
The most experienced option is Zander Diamont, aka Derek Zoolander, the handsome ex-model son of a soap star who played backup quarterback and torched Ohio State with a 79-yard touchdown run last season. His accuracy wasn’t excellent last season, and he was injured during spring practice, but he’s already shown flashes of what he’s capable of.
Wait, former model? Is Zander Diamont handsome?
Sources say yes.
Who are the other, less handsome options?
Richard Lagow, a JUCO transfer and one-time Oklahoma State commit, and similar to Sudfeld in a lot of ways. Lagow was recently named the season opener’s starter. But given how close this competition was, don’t be shocked if other QBs take snaps this year, perhaps even by the Ohio State game. Indiana could also leverage Danny Cameron, who saw some time last season when Diamont was injured.
The specific name might not matter too much here; Indiana’s coaching, history, and returning production would lead one to think that the Hoosiers are probably going to score no matter who is under center, provided they can take care of the football.
What about on defense?
Indiana will allegedly trout out 11 players on the field to play defense during football games. Their effectiveness remains to be seen.
Struggles on the defensive side of the ball have been a constant for Indiana these last few years. Part of that is going to come with a high tempo offense that forces a lot of possessions, but even adjusted for pace, opponent, etc, Indiana’s defense has been bad by virtually every metric.
Last year, Indiana gave up big plays in bunches (3rd worst in FBS), and their overall defensive S&P+ ranking was 97th. Sure, injuries were a major issue, especially in the defensive backfield, but it’s not like this was likely to be even a top 60 defense if everybody was healthy.
Could it improve? The Hoosiers brought in a new defensive coordinator, Tom Allen, to find out. Allen saw success at Ole Miss and USF, and wants to attack, something that the Hoosiers actually had a little success with last season.
That might prove trickier this season, given how thin Indiana is up front, and in a division where multiple programs have beefy, strong offensive lines and power rushing attacks. All three of their most productive defensive linemen are gone, and the Hoosiers will need young players to step up.
The Hoosiers return all of their linebackers and nearly all of their secondary, so while some improvement could be expected, given the recruit level on the roster, it’s likely to still be the weak spot on the defense. If you don’t turn the ball over against Indiana, you’re probably going to be able to score some points, especially later in the game, as the depth wears down.
So, is Indiana gonna be good next year?
Like, good-good? No. But Indiana basically never is. Will Indiana be good at some things? Absolutely. And with a soft non-conference schedule, a return trip to a bowl game is certainly on the table. If the Hoosiers win at Florida International, Ball State, Wake Forest, Maryland, at Rutgers and Purdue, they make a bowl game — and all of those games seem pretty winnable, no?
What’s the all time history like between Ohio State and Indiana?
Laughably one-sided. Ohio State owns a 71-12-5 advantage in the all-time series. The Hoosiers have beaten Ohio State exactly twice in my lifetime (I’m 29), and both of those victories happened before I turned three. In fact, Indiana has won just twice (in 1987 and 1988) since 1952, with the two teams playing just about every year. This is one of the most lopsided, relatively regular matchups in all of college football.
How worried should Ohio State fans be about this game?
Kinda worried, in my opinion. Look, Ohio State beats Indiana virtually every single time. Sometimes, those games are blowouts. But lately, they’ve been pretty close. The Buckeyes won by a single touchdown last year. They struggled in 2014 before Jalin Marshall scored a gazillion touchdowns and the Buckeyes pulled away, 42-27. They won by only three points in 2012. Since Kevin Wilson came to town, this hasn’t been a “eh, Sim-to-Finish” kind of game.
Eventually, Indiana is going to beat Ohio State again, just like someday, Minnesota and Northwestern will beat Ohio State again. That probably isn’t going to happen this season. But if Ohio State turns over the ball, the Hoosiers absolutely have the talent and scheme to make this game completely uncomfortable for any Ohio State fan watching.