5 questions for Ohio State as it prepares for the B1G game of the year vs. Indiana
So we didn’t get to watch a game this weekend, Buckeyes fans. It’s never too early to start looking toward next weekend.
Let’s face it: It surprises me to say this, but Ohio State vs. Indiana will be the biggest B1G game of the year in the regular season. It’s two top-10 teams, and both are talented. Both have beaten some decent teams. Both have exciting players to watch.
The difference here is that one of the teams just happens to be Indiana. Hey, it’s 2020, right? Anything can happen. We can’t explain it. Indiana is just good.
The Buckeyes will play Indiana for a spot in the B1G championship game. That seems almost a certainty even with the B1G season just now hitting the back stretch. Here are 5 questions I have for Ohio State heading into the contest:
1. Does not playing Maryland hurt Ohio State?
Yes. Do not believe what anyone else says. Not playing this weekend hurts the Buckeyes for a number of reasons.
First, this team is not playing its best football. On the offensive line, in the secondary and on special teams, Ohio State could have used another game to get better. It’s as simple as that.
Second, not playing another game leaves a razor-thin margin of error for the Buckeyes. They need 6 games to qualify for the B1G championship game, which means they can only miss one more game. And they really can’t afford to drop any of these contests, because they won’t be able to make up for a slip-up in the eyes of the CFP voters.
Third, I was interested to see how Ohio State would’ve performed against a team that could score a lot — and Maryland was a good opponent. The game was going to be a shootout, and being put in that situation would’ve been good for all involved.
2. How is Indiana this good? Can they really win?
Short answer? Yes.
I know Indiana had to get lucky to beat Penn State, but it is oozing confidence now after smashing Michigan and Michigan State in its latest outings. The Hoosiers can score points, which is the kind of team that can beat Ohio State.
The Hoosiers have an electric quarterback, quality receivers and a big, physical offensive line. The defense forces turnovers (12 in 4 games) and stops the run (it held Michigan to 13 yards rushing on 18 carries.) So yes, they can win.
3. Who needs to play well for Ohio State to win?
I think this one’s easy. On the offensive side of the ball, Justin Fields, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson need to keep doing what they do. This game will be a shootout, and look for these guys to have career-day type numbers.
On defense, it’s going to start with the defensive line. Two guys who need to be constant disruptors are Haskell Garett and Tommy Togiai. If the D-line can get penetration and disrupt the timing of the Indiana offense, it will take some of the pressure off the secondary, which will get its first true test.
4. Who are the biggest threats for Indiana?
It’s going to start with third-year sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Look at his statline against Michigan: 30-50 for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. At 6-3, 218, he’s got size. He’s mobile. He’s left-handed. A native of Tampa, Penix was a 4-star recruit and originally committed to Tennessee. But the Vols quarterbacks coach left for Indiana, and Penix eventually followed. Now he’s leading a resurgence in Bloomington.
On defense, 6-3, 229-pound Cam Jones was originally recruited as a wide receiver. Now he swarms as a linebacker. JUCO product Demarcus Elliott (311 pounds) has been plugging holes and was honorable mention all B1G last year.
5. What will make the difference?
As I said, I have wondered what would happen when the Buckeyes play a high-scoring game that could feature some pressure. I think they’ll get both in this one. But here’s the deal: If I have to rely on Justin Fields and the Ohio State offense, I’m confident.
And this is why I think the Buckeyes should win every game they play. They will always have the best offense on the field, save maybe a matchup for the national championship against Clemson or Alabama. And even then, I think the offenses are comparable. But this is what college football has become — an offensive game. Even Nick Saban said as much.
So yes, this game could be filled with fireworks. I say Ohio State is a touchdown better, 42-35.