When No. 9 IU football travels to Columbus, Ohio, this Saturday to face No. 3 Ohio State, it’ll be the team’s first top-10 matchup during the regular season in program history.
The Hoosiers stand with a 4-0 record in Big Ten play for the first time since 1987, the same year the team last defeated the Buckeyes on the road.
But despite the program's accomplishments this season, the team enters the game as a 21-point underdog against its toughest opponent yet.
“We’ll discuss things, we’ll talk about them, we’ll use them to our advantage when it’s appropriate,” IU head coach Tom Allen said during a Monday Zoom call. “But this football team is highly motivated, this team has worked extremely hard and we’re used to being told we don’t measure up.”
In 2019, IU suffered a brutal 51-10 loss at the hands of Ohio State at Memorial Stadium, but sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. did not play in the matchup due to injury. This season, he will be pitted against the Buckeyes’ junior quarterback Justin Fields.
Fields has accounted for 13 total touchdowns while only throwing 11 incompletions. He hasn’t thrown an interception all season.
However, the Hoosiers’ defense leads the Big Ten with 10 interceptions and 12 sacks through four games. Disrupting Fields behind the line of scrimmage will be imperative for the defense looking to prevent a repeat performance from last season.
“He’s a special talent, and there’s a reason why he’s arguably the best quarterback in the country,” Allen said. "Like every other quarterback, you have to affect them in some way. They have to feel uncomfortable.”
With Penix under center, the IU offense ranks second in the conference with 1,070 passing yards and nine touchdowns through the air. The Hoosiers' offensive line has only given up five sacks this season and just two in the last three games.
Last season, Ohio State took down former IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey six times.
“Rewatching last year’s game this week, it was pretty ugly,” senior offensive lineman Harry Crider said during a Wednesday Zoom call. “It was hard to watch the O-line, it was definitely not our best performance last year. But it’s something to improve on, it gives us even more encouragement to improve on the details.”
In a year that has seen IU defeat Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State for the first time in the same season, an upset victory over Ohio State would only add to the team's list of accolades. A win would tie a program record with three ranked wins in a single season, which was set in 1945.
“We have the talent,” Penix said. “We have the team that could go out and just show the skills that we have and all the things we put in in practice. We have a chance to go out and do special things each week. That’s something that we focus on, just making sure that we play our game.”