Ohio State matchup Thursday: Week 3 at Indiana
Ohio State’s Big Ten opener, Saturday at Indiana (noon ET, Fox TV) matches two programs trying to forge an identity.
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 6 and seem to be in complete command under new head coach Ryan Day, but are still weeks away from having a chance at a signature victory.
The Hoosiers are just trying to break out of what has become an annual five-win rut, not to mention breaking a 23-game losing streak against OSU (it’s actually 24 in a row on the field but Ohio State vacated its 2010 victory).
If they are to challenge OSU and perhaps end that streak, the Hoosiers will have to be efficient through the air. Quarterback Michael Penix (38-for-60, 523 yards, 3 touchdowns) is tied for fourth in the B1G through two games in completions. Last year’s starter, Peyton Ramsey, is 13-for-14 for 226 yards and 2 TDs in relief of Penix in last week’s 52-0 blowout victory over Eastern Illinois.
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For the young season, Indiana has 81 pass attempts, 64 rushes despite never having trailed all season.
Penix says the Hoosiers are “rising every single week” on offense.
Last season, Indiana ranked in the top 25 nationally in first-down rate (percentage of drives in which a team gets either a first down or a touchdown) and in OBD, or the fewest “busted” possessions (ones with negative yardage or a turnover), according to Football Outsiders FEI ratings. This season — and again it’s very early and IU has played low-caliber opposition — the Hoosiers are eighth in the country in passing yards per game (383.5).
The Ohio State secondary should be up for the challenge.
Since allowing 376 passing yards to Purdue in last season’s blowout defeat to the Boilermakers, OSU has allowed 300 yards in passing just once, 315 in a victory against Washington in the Rose Bowl. In their past eight games dating to last season, the Buckeyes are allowing just 234.5 passing yards per game, even when opponents are usually trailing and forced to throw more. Small wonder OSU is riding an eight-game winning streak.
Two veterans, cornerback Damon Arnette and safety Jordan Fuller, certainly lead the way because no other starter in the secondary has double-digit starts in their OSU careers. Fuller had an interception against the Hoosiers in 2017 in a game OSU trailed 14-13 at halftime before winning 49-21.
But this week, Day had high praise for young Buckeyes cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (pictured at top), who is already regarded as a player with high NFL Draft potential.
And of course no discussion of what Indiana is up against in the passing game on Saturday would be complete without the Hoosiers offensive line having to account for OSU’s pass rush, including All-American defense end Chase Young.
Yet the numbers indicate that, although Indiana’s Savion Smith (1,137 yards last season) is a running back OSU will have to respect, the matchup fans will want to watch is Indiana’s passing game against Ohio State’s secondary and linebackers.