Allen, Hoosiers take confidence into against-all-odds game at Ohio State
Tom Allen is likely to try to keep the week as routine as possible.
That won’t be easy, not with a trip to Columbus coming Saturday, when No. 9 Indiana will take on No. 3 Ohio State in a battle for Big Ten East supremacy. It’s not too much to say that the game is the biggest for the Hoosiers in more than 50 years, dating back to their Rose Bowl run in 1967. Back then, the top-10 Hoosiers won 9 of 10 in the regular season, the only blemish being a mid-November loss at Minnesota.
If IU wants a repeat trip to Pasadena this season — or maybe, if we’re allowed to dream a moment, even more than that — they’ll need to upend the Big Ten favorite Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium.
Odds say that’ll be hard: Indiana hasn’t beaten OSU anywhere since 1988 and hasn’t won in Columbus since the year before. Vegas has installed the hosts as a 20-point favorite, while ESPN’s FPI odds gives the Buckeyes a 90 percent chance of winning the game. And Ohio State hasn’t lost a home game since Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners planted their flag at midfield following a win in 2017, a streak of 22 games. The last Big Ten home loss? That was in 2015 to then-No. 9 Michigan State.
But the odds are what they are; the Hoosiers plan to play the game regardless. Already, the Hoosiers have gained the respect of the AP voters, who jumped IU up a spot following their 24-0 shutout of Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday.
“It does not matter what everyone says about us,” Allen told media following the Hoosiers’ win. “We are going to keep doing us and executing each and every week. That is what is exciting about this team. We are getting better each and every week. Look at the defense. They had a shutout today. Offense, we played well but we could have done better. We are going to continue to work on it next week.”
It has proven successful for the Hoosiers so far in this anything-but-typical 2020 season. And because of the success, Indiana won’t lack for confidence headed into the Shoe. The Hoosiers have already slayed former nemeses this season, knocking off Penn State for only the 2nd time in series’ history, pummeling Michigan for the 1st time since 1987 and taking care of the Spartans in East Lansing for the 1st time since 2001.
Indiana has lost 25 straight to OSU, with only 1 tie since 1988, but this Buckeyes team — and it’s the only one that’ll matter Saturday — has shown to be fallible. The Buckeyes defense is only 5th in the Big Ten in points allowed, giving up 23 per outing. Even Rutgers put up 27 points in Columbus, granted that 18 of them came in the 4th quarter when the game was out of reach. But Nebraska scored 17 in the 1st half-plus in the opener at Ohio State (before completely collapsing), and the Nittany Lions compiled 25 in a 2-possession loss.
The Hoosiers have already accomplished a lot of firsts this season, and we’re only halfway through. They’d like to add another.
“It means a lot. It just shows how much work we’ve put in,” quarterback Michael Penix Jr. told media via Zoom after the MSU win. “We put in so much work that if we weren’t doing this, we would have been doing (that work) for nothing. … Coach always believes in us. He puts that confidence in us every week, to make sure we’re physically prepared, mentally prepared and we’re ready to go for the game.”
Even for a game as big as this one.