It was incredibly ugly, but Ohio State managed to escape Evanston with a 21-7 win on Saturday in a game plagued by rain and heavy winds. While the Buckeyes played perhaps their worst football of the year thus far, things certainly could have been worse. At the end of the day, Ryan Day’s group advanced to 9-0, and avoided similar fates to that of Alabama, Illinois, and Clemson — all of whom lost outright this weekend as the favorite (double-digit favorites in terms of the Tide and the Illini). A win is a win, and Ohio State’s national title hopes are still very much alive despite a poor performance.
Nothing went right for the Buckeyes on offense against the Wildcats. Any throw for more than a few yards was simply a no-go in the awful weather conditions, and as a result C.J. Stroud had his worst performance as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, completing just 10 of his 26 pass attempts for 76 yards with no touchdowns. It was the first start in Strouds career that he did not complete a TD pass, and he got no help from his wide receivers as they uncharacteristically dropped a handful of passes. The run game continued to be an issue as well, despite the final stats looking okay, as Ohio State failed to pick up a first down on the ground in short yardage on multiple occasions.
Defensively, it was just sort of a meh day for the Buckeyes. They held Northwestern to just 3.5 yards per carry on the day, but still allowed over 200 yards on the ground. It was frustrating to see the Wildcats pick up yardage on multiple occasions out of the wildcat formation, as they never did anything besides run left or run right when lined up that way. They also allowed far too many conversions on 3rd-and-long against an offensive challenged Northwestern team. We’ve seen much worse defensive performances from Ohio State in recent years, as they still only allowed seven points on Saturday, but it wasn’t an afternoon that really jumped off the page.
Indiana wasn’t expected to do much this season, so it was a bit surprising when they got off to a 3-0 start, including a Big Ten win over Indiana in the opener. The Hoosiers have crashed back down to earth since then, as they now sit a 3-6 following a six-game losing streak. Things went from bad to worse recently, as starting quarterback Connor Bazelak, who transferred in from Missouri this offseason, was in street clothes for the game against Penn State. Starting in his place was Jack Tuttle, who is already in the transfer portal but decided to stick out the remainder of the year with Indiana.
The Tuttle-led offense wasn’t able to do much of anything against the Nittany Lions, as Tom Allen’s group lost its sixth-straight affair in a 45-14 blowout in Bloomington. Tuttle himself was efficient, but his numbers didn’t jump off the page, finishing the afternoon completing nine of his 12 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. As has been the case for some time now, Indiana got mostly nothing from its running game, averaging just 1.9 yards per carry on 34 carries. Overall, the Hoosiers rank near the bottom of the Big Ten in both scoring offense (11th) and yards per game (12th), making their win over the Illini earlier in the year look more and more curious.
It has not been much better defensively for this group. Indiana is allowing a Big Ten-worst 32.2 points per game. They’ve allowed at least 35 points in four of their last five games, with the one outlier being a 24-17 loss to Rutgers. This defense is really feeling the loss of a guy like Micah McFadden, who was a mainstay in the middle of the Hoosier defense for years before moving on to the NFL. Linebackers Aaron Casey and Cam Jones have led the way thus far, as well as star corner Tiawan Mullen, but they are not getting a ton of help around them.
Ohio State will be looking for a bounce back performance after a lackluster showing against Northwestern. The Buckeyes need to get things righted in these next two games before the massive season finale against Michigan, and getting the Hoosiers at home is a great opportunity to do just that. Both sides are dealing with injury issues, with the status of guys like Bazelak and TreVeyon Henderson unclear, but that shouldn’t really impact the outcome of this one. Ryan Day has heard the doubters these last few weeks, so expect him to look to make a statement in front of the home crowd this week.
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