Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
Week 5: Ohio State Buckeyes
We have previewed the non-conference schedule which means it’s time to turn our focus to the beginning of the grind that is the B1G season. The Hoosiers could be a disastrous 2-2. However, it is also entirely possible that they will enter conference play at 4-0, setting up one of the more anticipated IU football games in recent memory. The Buckeyes figure to roll into Bloomington full of confidence and ranked #1 in the country (unless one of their pre-conference opponents pulls off a stunning upset). They are the heavy favorites to win the B1G East and they will be heavily favored to win this contest and move to 5-0. That being said, a strong start to IU’s 2015 season would create an electric atmosphere around Bloomington and inside of Memorial Stadium and this could turn into a great opportunity for this IU team to show they belong on the field with one of the country’s best, make things interesting against the Buckeyes and create some positive fan interest for the rest of the season.
Week 5: Ohio State
Time & Date: October 3, 2015 - TBA
Venue: Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN)
Buckeyes at a Glance:
Head Coach: Urban Meyer (4th season, 38-3 at Ohio State and 142-26 overall)
Last Season: 14-1 (8-0 in B1G)
Buckeyes Returning Leaders:
Passing: J.T. Barrett (64.6%, 2834 yards, 34 TD, 10 INT)
Rushing: Ezekiel Elliott (273 rushes for 1878 yards, 6.9/ypc)
Receiving: Michael Thomas (75 catches for 799 yards, catch rate of 72%)
Lindy’s: 1st in the B1G East
Sporting News: 1st in the B1G East
Athlon: 1st in the B1G East
Phil Steele: 1st in the B1G East
Why the Buckeyes could win:
In short, the Buckeyes could win this game because they are likely the best team in the country and they haven't lost a conference game (the 2013 B1G Championship game loss against MSU isn't counted as a conference game) under Urban Meyer. However, we at Hoosier Huddle believe we owe you much better analysis than that. Ohio State returns an astonishing 98.3% of the offensive production from a unit that was as dangerous as any by the end of the 2014 season. The Buckeyes have three terrific options at QB in Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Those three will battle it out throughout the remainder of the offseason and it is pure speculation to hazard a guess at whom the starter will end up being. I think Cardale Jones has the highest ceiling but the Buckeyes really can't go wrong and a young Hoosiers secondary is going to have its hands full. Whoever ends up taking the snaps will be handing off to Ezekiel Elliott, perhaps the best RB that IU will face all year. IU’s run defense should be pretty solid but Elliott ran for an average of 8.2 yards per carry in the 2014 matchup.
Ohio State has to replace deep threat wide receiver Devin Smith but by Week 5, the passing game should be in rhythm and there are plenty of intriguing options to spread the ball around to. Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and potential star Noah Brown will be ready as will the player IU defenders have likely seen in their nightmares after last season’s game, Jalin Marshall. The Buckeyes offense returns a ton of production and the Hoosier defense will need to play a game for the ages to even keep the Buckeyes under 30.
Defensively, the Buckeyes feature perhaps the best defensive player in the country in Joey Bosa. IU’s offensive line is a strength but Bosa and a defensive line led by Adolphus Washington will be a mighty test. In addition, both starting safeties (Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell) return and corners Eli Apple and Gareon Conley now have a year of experience under their belts. The strength of Ohio State's offense but the defense should be plenty good to keep Indiana from turning this into a shootout. This will be a road game for Ohio State but the Buckeyes will have already played at Virginia Tech, a much more intimidating atmosphere than Memorial Stadium, and Bloomington should have quite a few Buckeye visitors that will make things feel a bit like home for the defending champs.
Why They Won’t Pull it Off:
Think of a couple of your favorite clichés. Mine would be, “games aren't played on paper” and “anything can happen”. I know it’s cheesy but those sayings are accurate. Sports are crazy and miracles can happen. Here’s a scenario: IU begins the season 4-0 and generates more fan interest and momentum than we've seen in a long time. Ohio State also begins the season 4-0, but looks less than sharp coming off of their national title. The fan interest results in a sell-out crowd of mostly IU fans and the Hoosiers come out playing inspired football. They control the ball and take advantage of an Ohio State run defense that struggles to replace the departed DT Michael Bennett. The Buckeyes get a bit impatient on offense, turn the ball over a few times and find themselves in a tight game in the second half (remember, this game was close in Columbus in 2014 and IU has played OSU well in Wilson's tenure). This time, Jalin Marshall is unable to turn the game with a special teams play and Nate Sudfeld, who didn't play against OSU in 2014, is on fire and connecting with his young receivers. The game remains close deep into the second half and the sell-out crowd begins to believe.
That scenario is a major long shot but it’s not entirely implausible. Nate Sudfeld is capable of having extremely good games and the Hoosiers could potentially have an offense that can keep up with Ohio State if the Buckeyes are a bit off their game. If IU were able to create a few turnovers, well, as I mentioned above, “anything can happen”.
Starting the conference season against the defending national champions, a team that appears to be loaded for a run at a repeat, is not ideal. However, if the Hoosiers can take care of business in the non-conference (definitely not a given), they will have a chance to play in front of a raucous crowd and a strong performance against the top team in the B1G would provide a lot of confidence moving forward. I don’t expect an IU victory but I do expect for them to battle the Buckeyes and make them work to continue their conference winning streak.
IU Winning Percentage:
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