In preparation for the No. 2 Ohio Buckeyes (9-0, 6-0) taking on the Indiana Hoosiers (3-6, 1-5) in Ohio Stadium today, we chatted with Luke Norton the co-managing editor of Crimson Quarry, our SB Nation sibling site that covers Indiana athletics.
LGHL: The Hoosiers’ quarterback situation got a little messy last weekend against Penn State. What is the latest about who will be starting and how healthy/ready he might be?
CQ: Connor Bazelak, who was actually recruited a bit by Ryan Day according to his teammates, will start at quarterback per Tom Allen.
He was “dinged up” for the Penn State game with no specific injury given. He should be good to go but at this point your guess is as good as ours on the subject of him being at 100%.
LGHL: IU was one of the feel-good stories of 2019 and 2020, but has struggled in the two seasons since. What is the current vibe with fans around the program and Tom Allen’s status as head coach?
CQ: The current vibe is less than great. Allen built up some goodwill with a good season in 2019 and a historic one in 2020 under favorable conditions, but the forthcoming issues were readily apparent even then and he did not rise to meet them in the slightest.
He’s probably safe thanks to his buyout, but large portions of the fanbase want a change after a taste of success that’s been followed by some of the worst football we’ve seen in Bloomington since the 2000s. Don’t be surprised if those same fans are tweeting about Ohio State OL coach/Hoosier alum Justin Frye on Saturday. That’s gonna be on people's minds much more than the on-field product.
LGHL: Ohio State has struggled in recent weeks to run the ball, but assuming there aren’t 50 mph winds, should be able to be a bit more balanced this week. IU has struggled mightily on defense this season, so how do you think that defensive coordinator Chad Wilt will try to contain the Buckeye offense?
CQ: “Try” is doing unthinkable amounts of heavy lifting.
As for that, Wilt’s role is to be a second Tom Allen rather than run the defense. His role is more or less to act as Allen, who oversees and calls the defense, in meetings if the latter has to leave to do head coach stuff.
I’d say Ohio State’s offense is a passing one due to C.J. Stroud and the receivers but the run game is also vital. Indiana is stopping neither. They could try to go heavy in the backfield, but Ohio State would just move the ball at will on the ground. Indiana’s tempo is gonna wear the Hoosiers’ defense down sooner or later so Ryan Day can honestly do just about whatever he wants to on offense.
LGHL: The weak spot on Ohio State’s team this season has been the play of their cornerbacks and one of the bright spots for Indiana has been the play of their wide receivers. What does he bring to the field that could concern the Buckeye coaches?
CQ: The group is led out of the gate by D.J. Matthews a speed option who was fairly reliable when he had Cam Camper as a running mate to balance the offense out a bit. Indiana doesn’t really have anyone to step up and fill in for Camper, lots of young guys and transfers. The only receiver that can do much is Matthews, so that makes a game plan pretty simple for the Buckeyes.
LGHL: If this game is within one score halfway through the fourth quarter, what do you think the one major storyline for how it got that way will be? Indiana causing turnovers? A specific Hoosier going crazy?
CQ: Ha, can you imagine?
If this game is within one score it is because Michael Penix Jr. has somehow returned clad in Hoosier crimson and brought some sort of otherworldly offensive line/receivers with him with all the sliders maxed out.
That or almost everyone on the Buckeyes’ roster got the flu at once. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got.
LGHL: I won’t ask you for a specific score (although you are welcome to give one), but how do you think this game plays out?
You know, I think Indiana embraces the underdog mentality with everyone counting them out. It makes for excellent bulletin board material and I think the Hoosiers will have enough on both sides of the ball to really push the Buckeyes, and hey I’m just kidding man haha it’s gonna be bad.
Like, bad bad. Indiana in a good year (2019) got pulverized by the Buckeyes at home.
Final score will be like 58-7. Who’s coming in at quarterback in the fourth quarter for both teams will be a much more interesting storyline.