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Ohio State vs. Indiana: 2018 game preview and prediction

Off an emotional win last week against Penn State, Ohio State will look to stay undefeated when they host Indiana on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

After facing a 26-14 deficit with just eight minutes to go last week against Penn State, Ohio State engineered a miraculous comeback late in the fourth quarter to beat the Nittany Lions by a point for the second year in a row, 27-26. The win over Penn State gave Ohio State their second victory over a team ranked in the top 15 so far this year. The Buckeyes now are the owners of a 10-game winning streak, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation, behind only defending national champions, the UCF Knights.

A Miles Sanders touchdown run gave the Nittany Lions a 12-point lead with eight minutes to go, but the Buckeyes responded quickly with a three-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by an incredible effort by Binjimen Victor on a 47-yard touchdown reception. The Buckeyes were then able to force the Nittany Lions to punt, which would lead to an eight-play, 96-yard touchdown drive. Ohio State was able to take the lead for good on K.J. Hill’s 24-yard touchdown reception from Dwayne Haskins with 2:03 left in the game.

More of the same

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins struggled for most of the game, but found his rhythm at just the right time, finishing with 270 yards passing and three touchdown throws. The efforts from the redshirt sophomore were enough to earn him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors, marking the third time this year in which Haskins has earned at least a share of the weekly award.

The Chase

Haskins wasn’t the only Buckeye to be honored for his performance last week, as defensive end Chase Young was named Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week. With Ohio State not having the services of defensive end Nick Bosa for a second straight game, Young had his best outing as a Buckeyes on Saturday night. The sophomore finished with six tackles, three of those being for loss, two sacks, and two pass breakups.

Even though Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was able to find plenty of room to run on the ground, finishing with 175 yards rushing, Ohio State was able to register four sacks in the victory. The Buckeyes now have 19 sacks this season, which ranks second in the country. Young is tied with Bosa for the team lead in sacks with four this season, while defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones sits just behind the dynamic defensive ends with 3.5.

Punting is winning

The final Buckeye to be honored for his performance against Penn State was punter Drue Chrisman. The sophomore was called on for a career-high nine punts, averaging 47.9 yards per kick. Chrisman’s efforts not only kept Ohio State in the game, but it was impressive enough to earn him the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week honors.

With three punts that were marked inside the 20-yard line last week, Chrisman has now seen 13 of his 22 punts end up inside the 20-yard line. After being named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award last year in his first season as the starting punter for the Buckeyes, Chrisman again looks like he’ll be in the thick of the conversation for the award this year.

Silver bullets stepping up

Despite Penn State racking up nearly 500 yards of offense on Saturday night, Ohio State’s linebackers had a strong game, registering 21 tackles. In his first game without having his snaps limited due to recovery from an achilles injury suffered in spring practices, Tuf Borland finished the game with eight tackles and a sack. Borland also forced a fumble near the end of the first half, which resulted in an Ohio State touchdown just two plays later to cut Penn State’s lead to 13-7.

While Borland’s performance was impressive, the most notable effort from an Ohio State linebacker on Saturday night came from Malik Harrison. The Walnut Ridge product was tasked with spying Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley on numerous occasions, finishing the game with a career-high eight tackles. Harrison is currently second on the team with 20 tackles this year, trailing safety Jordan Fuller by two for the team lead.

Decades of dominance

Now the Buckeyes will turn their attention to Indiana, whom they have won 22 straight games against. The last time that Ohio State failed to beat the Hoosiers came in 1990, when the teams tied 27-27 in Bloomington. Indiana’s last victory over the Buckeyes came in 1988, as the Hoosiers beat Ohio State 41-7 to win their second straight game in the series. Overall, Ohio State holds a 73-12-5 edge in the series, and are 53-2-2 since 1952.

Ohio State opened up their 2017 season with a 49-21 victory over the Hoosiers. With running back Mike Weber missing the game due to injury, J.K. Dobbins got the start in his debut with the Buckeyes, and was the star of the game, rushing for 181 yards on 29 carries. With their scoring output, Ohio State extended their streak of games with at least 30 points against the Hoosiers to 14 games.

Familiar foes

Saturday’s game marks the second time co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has squared off with his former team. Wilson was just 26-47 during his six years in Bloomington, but had the Hoosiers playing better football in the final two years of his tenure, with Indiana securing bowl bids in both 2015 and 2016.

Under the leadership of Wilson and fellow co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day, the Ohio State offense ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 557 yards per game. Prior to scoring 27 points in Saturday’s win against Penn State, the Ohio State offense had scored at least 40 in each of their first four games in 2018.

Taking over for Wilson in Bloomington was defensive coordinator Tom Allen, who transformed Indiana’s defense from a laughingstock into a respected unit. The Hoosiers just missed out on a bowl game in 2017, finishing with a 5-7 record. The absence could be short-lived though, with Indiana having won four of their first five so far this year.

Peyton’s place

After losing to Michigan State 35-21 two weeks ago, the Hoosiers got back in the win column last week with a 24-17 win on the road at Rutgers. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey paced the Indiana offense, throwing for over 200 yards in his second straight game, finishing with 288 yards passing and a touchdown, as well as 51 yards rushing and a score on the ground.

The sophomore quarterback from Cincinnati saw significant action in just five games last year, before an injury ruled him out for the final four of the year. Ramsey has started all five games for the Hoosiers so far this year, and is completing 71 percent of his passes for 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns. The Hoosiers will need Ramsey to improve on his solid play so far this year if Indiana has any hopes of pulling the upset over Ohio State on Saturday.

Taking a licking, but keeping on ticking

Indiana might not quite have the stable of wide receivers that Ohio State has, but the Hoosiers know how to spread the football around. Seven Indiana receivers have recorded at least 10 catches this year, with six of those receivers having amassed at least 100 yards through five games.

Whop Philyor is Indiana’s leading receiver so far this season, pulling in 18 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore had a breakout game two weeks ago against Michigan State, finishing with 13 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Philyor missed last week’s game due to an ankle injury, and his status for Saturday’s game is still up in the air. Joining Philyor on the injury front is Luke Timian, who hauled in 68 passes last season.

If Philyor or Timian isn’t able to play, or is limited in his participation, the Hoosiers will lean on some of their other wide receivers. A name familiar to Ohio State fans is Nick Westbrook, who tore his ACL on the first play of the year last season against the Buckeyes. In 2016, Westbrook registered 54 catches for 995 yards and six touchdown receptions, and this year has 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. Donavan Hale and J-Shun Harris are a couple of other upperclassmen who could be targeted more if Indiana isn’t able to get some of their injured receivers healthy.

Great Scott!

If Indiana tries to get their running game going, Ohio State’s defenders could have their arms full in trying to slow down Stevie Scott. The freshman running back is a load, weighing in at over 230 pounds, Scott’s breakout game came in the second game of the season, where he rushed for 204 yards in a 20-16 win over Virginia. The Syracuse native followed that performance up with a 100-yard performance against Ball State, but has been slowed in recent weeks, rushing for just 76 yards over the past two games.

Broken Hart

Coaching Scott and the rest of Indiana’s running backs is someone who is still looking for his first win against Ohio State. Former Michigan running back Mike Hart is Indiana’s running backs coach and assistant head coach. Not only did Hart go 0-4 against the Buckeyes during his playing career with the Wolverines, but he has failed to register a win over the Buckeyes as running backs coach of Western Michigan in 2015, as well as last year in his first year Indiana’s running backs coach.

Give and take

Indiana’s defense has allowed 17 points or less in three of their five games this year, but they’ll have their work cut out for them if they want to keep the Buckeyes off the scoreboard on Saturday. One way the Hoosiers could keep Ohio State’s point total down is to force turnovers, something they have been good at so far this year.

The Hoosiers have five different players who have recorded an interception this season, as well as five different players who have recovered a fumble through five games. Senior safety Jonathan Crawford is the only Hoosier to not only intercept a pass this year, but also recover a fumble. Crawford has started 43 games in his career at Indiana, and has nine career interceptions to go along with six career fumble recoveries.

Low pressure

Indiana will need to force Ohio State into some turnovers, because they don’t produce much in terms of a pass rush. Of the 10 sacks the Hoosiers have recorded so far this year, only four of those have come from defensive ends or tackles. Marcelino Ball, who plays the husky position for the Hoosiers, which is a linebacker/safety hybrid spot, leads the team with two sacks this season.

Tried and true

Even though Indiana doesn’t produce much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, what the Hoosiers have going for them is plenty of experience on the defensive side of the football. On Indiana’s depth chart heading into this week’s game, essentially all of the projected starters are either juniors or seniors. The lone exception on this depth chart being at cornerback, where the Hoosiers have junior A’Shon Riggins “-or-” sophomore Raheem Layne listed as starters.

Summary

F/+ Projection: Ohio State 39, Indiana 18

Win Probability: Ohio State 89.1%

There have been a few games over the past decade in which the Hoosiers have been a thorn in the side of the Buckeyes, but this doesn’t look to be one of those games. There is always the fear of Ohio State coming out of the gates slow after last week’s emotional comeback win on the road over Penn State, but the Buckeyes simply have too much talent for Tom Allen’s Hoosiers squad to keep up.

The goal for Ohio State on Saturday afternoon will be to get their starters some work and build up a lead, then let some of their backups get some reps in the second half. The Buckeyes have Minnesota in Columbus next week, and Urban Meyer will be looking for his teams to earn some comfortable wins, while also working on some areas of weakness that have shown up through the early season.

Indiana does have some positives which should help them to contend for a bowl bid, but this is just too much of a step up in competition to expect the Hoosiers to spring the upset. Indiana does have plenty of experience on the offense line, with three starters with at least 25 starts, but if a team like Rutgers can keep Indiana within shouting distance, then it could be a long afternoon for the Hoosiers inside Ohio Stadium.