Indiana football will travel to Columbus, to face Ohio State in the Ohio Stadium on Saturday. The Buckeyes ranked second in the latest Associated Press and College Football Playoff polls after beating Northwestern last week to remain undefeated.
Indiana is entering the matchup following a loss to another ranked team in Penn State where multiple quarterbacks received opportunities on the field. Head coach Tom Allen said junior quarterback Connor Bazelak will return to the starting line up to face the Buckeyes and the other members of the position group will have to keep waiting for a chance to play.
“Connor is definitely healthier, back to more like we expect him to be, in terms of ball velocity and his other abilities,” Allen said. “To me it's just decision making, just protect the football, can’t have the offense collectively put us as a team in tough positions.”
Ohio State comes into most seasons as the favorite to win the Big Ten conference and so far, that has not changed. Although the Buckeyes struggled offensively when the weather was inclement in the game against the Wildcats, they sport one of the best offensive groups in the nation.
Unlike Indiana, Ohio State has no problems at quarterback. Led by Heisman hopeful junior CJ Stroud, the Buckeyes are averaging 484 yards and 45.8 points per game this season. Stroud has thrown for 2,453 yards to go with 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
The Buckeyes also have a versatile rushing attack. Spearheaded by junior running back Miyan Williams and sophomore standout Treyveon Henderson, they are balanced offensively. While Henderson was a breakout star as a freshman last season, injuries have hampered his ability to garner the majority of the carries this year.
Last season Ohio State beat Indiana 54-7 in Memorial Stadium behind strong performances from Stroud and Henderson.
As far as each teams' receivers are concerned, Ohio State has a stable of receivers who are NFL hopefuls. Sophomore Marvin Harrison Jr. — son of former Indianapolis Colt receiver — has been the lead man, but not far behind him is fellow sophomore Emeka Egbuka.
The Hoosiers — after losing junior Cam Camper to a torn ACL — have turned to seniors DJ Matthews and Emery Simmons as the go to options in the air game.
Indiana has struggled to find a steady offensive identity throughout the majority of the Big Ten schedule. While they attempt to run an up-tempo offense featuring a lot of passing opportunities for Bazelak, results have been mixed and inconsistent.
If Indiana hopes to pull off the upset, it will need to follow a blueprint akin to what Northwestern did last weekend when it held Ohio State to seven points in the first half. The Wildcats effectively shut down the Buckeye passing attack and got them off the field on third downs.
“They’re highly favored and I understand that and why they are,” Allen said. “But at the same time, you never surrender anything, without question, that’s the mindset.”
The Hoosiers will have their work cut out for them Saturday. Following the game, they have only two matches remaining against rivals Michigan State and Purdue.
While losing is never easy, some wondered if Indiana has gotten comfortable with it.
“I can’t think of anyone that comes to mind that losing comes easy for them, no,” Allen said.
Ohio State looks to stay perfect and get to 10 wins while Indiana is looking for its fourth win of the season. The Hoosiers kick off against the Buckeyes at noon Saturday on FOX.
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