There’s plenty to be worried about as Ohio State prepares for its first conference game and first road game of the season. Indiana rarely goes down without a fight. Add that to the fact that it’s a young Buckeye team who may underestimate the unranked Hoosiers, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for a possible upset.
Thankfully, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day assured us that there won’t be a lax Buckeyes team on his watch.
“We know going on the road, first conference game in the Big Ten and every time we play Indiana, it’s a tough game,” Day said in his press conference this week. “Those guys always come ready to play. So we got our hands full early on.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s all the Buckeyes head coach had to say to make me feel pretty confident that Ohio State will be returning to Columbus with the W. Doesn’t take much, considering Indiana hasn’t beat Ohio State since 1988.
To flip the script, lets say you’re the head coach of a program who’s about to play a team you haven’t beaten since 1988. It’s gonna take more than a sentence or two to convince the media and fans that you’re prepared to play, let alone beat, the No. 6 team in the country.
Third-year Indiana head coach Tom Allen gave it his best shot, however, in his press conference on Monday. Here’s what he had to say:
You can’t be overwhelmed playing Ohio State
- “We’re on the field today, as I talked to our team, it’s the most important game of the season, and I asked the question why? And their response was, because it’s the next one. That’s where I think it begins, the mindset of, yes, this is obviously a huge game for us because it’s the first conference game, it’s a home game, and it’s the Ohio State Buckeyes. But at the same time, as you mentioned, you can’t make it bigger than it is.”
- Allen said it’s all about playing to their standard, getting better in areas they addressed, no matter who they’re playing that week.
- He also said, however, that when playing a team of Ohio State’s “caliber”, they obviously have a heightened sense of intensity and focus and urgency. They have to bring their very best.
You have to stop Ohio State’s explosive plays.
- “When you go through and you watch the film, sometimes it’s like, man, I mean, they score so fast, and it’s different guys, and you make one mistake and you give them a crease and they make you pay. But that’s what the great teams do.”
- Allen said when facing a team with so many elite athletes, you have to have great angles, tackle well, and make zero mistakes— otherwise they’ll capitalize on them.
You have to maintain your momentum until the end of the game.
- “I know the history. I know where we’re at. I know what’s it been since we’ve beaten this team, and so to me, it’s about being our very, very best on Saturday. And we have to play extremely hard, we have to play extremely well, we have to play extremely physical, and we have to do it for 60 minutes, not 50, not 40. It’s got to be 60. And that to me is the next step for this program and this game.”
- Allen said the 2017 and 2018 games are good examples of his teams not finishing strongly. He said Ohio State out-played them late in the third quarter both times. (Ohio State trailed at halftime in 2017)
- Allen said good depth is key when it comes to finishing strong. He needs his players to stay “fresh” and to continue making big plays in the fourth quarter. He said they’ve made progress in that area.
Mentality is everything.
- “My mind of mantra is that nothing can break us unless we let it. We are the ones that allow it to happen. But no person, no situation, no environment and no set of circumstances can break this football team. So that’s what you want.”
- Allen said he hopes to change the mindset, culture, expectations, and beliefs of his football team.
Justin Fields’ ability to throw and run is problematic for the defense.
- “Justin Fields has a very strong arm... but also he can really run, as the film has shown consistently. That really does create a lot of problems for the defense, and so we’ve got to do a great job of being able to contain that, and not giving up those explosive plays.”
- Allen said Ohio State “lives off” of the ability to put pressure on defenses by scoring fast and often. He said it keeps the opposition off balance and on their heels.
JK Dobbins demands a lot of attention.
- “You’ve got to swarm him. Not one guy around him, you’ve got to get a lot of hats to the ball. And that creates challenges. You’ve got to be able to do that.”
- Allen said the Buckeyes’ running back depth on top of also having a quarter back who can run and throw will require some of their absolute best defense. He said he wants to stop the run game and force them to be one-dimensional.
Beating Ohio State would create tremendous opportunity.
- “I’ve been some places where you don’t have an opportunity to play many of those places and those teams. And it is a great chance for us to be able to take that next step as a program... and those are definitely program-changing, program-defining wins that affect recruiting and affect the trajectory of your program.”
- Allen said Ohio State is who everyone in the conference has been chasing. They expose you in a lot of ways and every mistake is magnified. He said they have to play hard and show up with a complete offense, defense, special teams game.
While Allen stated some good strategies— play hard till the end, believe you can win, stop Ohio State’s explosiveness, etc— if I were a Hoosier’s fan, I don’t know if I’d sleep great on Friday night.