Can IU get over the hump vs. OSU?

If the Hoosiers are going to upset the No. 6 team in the country, it’s going to be the quintessential group effort.

Of course, Indiana is going to need certain individuals to perform versus Ohio State. A win will require a quarterback (either Michael Penix Jr. or Peyton Ramsey) to make plays and take care of the ball. A victory will most likely feature an energetic (but disciplined) Marcelino Ball flying around the football field.

But a long list of things would need to go right for the Hoosiers to improve to 3-0 and beat a team that’s won the last 24 meetings. When IU coach Tom Allen went down his list, even the crowd at today’s noon kick was important.

“You need every possible component to be working together, flowing together, and helping us be special on game day,” Allen said. “So, yes, the crowd is going to be huge.”

Even there, the Buckeyes are a unique opponent. Their fans tend to flood Memorial Stadium, blending in with the Hoosier faithful.

“They are welcome to whatever seats are open, but hopefully there aren’t a lot of open seats for them to sit in,” Allen replied. “We expect it to be that way. They’ll have a good following, they travel well. But that’s what they built, that’s what their tradition has established. So hats off to them for that.”

Allen said it at the beginning of the week: games versus an Ohio State are “program-changing” opportunities. The results not only affect the arc of a season but the culture of winning at an institution.

The Hoosiers want to think they have improved the level of talent within the program, as well as the depth necessary to stand up to an Ohio State in the fourth quarter. They want to believe they have closed the gap.

But they will have to execute in every phase. And their opponent should know better than to take them lightly.

The last time IU and OSU played in Bloomington, the Hoosiers held a one-point lead in the third quarter, until the Buckeyes rattled off 29 unanswered points. That was former IU coach Kevin Wilson’s first year at the helm of OSU’s offense.

“Anytime you go on the road and play in a conference game, it’s hard,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day told reporters in Columbus this week. “Kevin is now three years removed from that, and the focus is now more on us.”

In Bloomington, Allen has brought in two consecutive top 50 recruiting classes, the best results in program history, but it’s still a question of how quickly those gains will translate to wins versus the Big Ten’s best.

Last season, the Hoosiers went into the locker room in Columbus down eight points but again fell victim to a scoreless fourth quarter, losing by 23. With a new offensive coordinator in Kalen DeBoer, and a dynamic young quarterback in Penix behind center, IU has new blood on the offensive side heading into the 2019 matchup.

But then it was revealed Thursday that Penix will be a game-time decision due to an undisclosed injury. That piece of the Hoosiers’ formula for a win is now in flux.

How much does that change the calculus for the Buckeyes? Not much.

They watched Peyton Ramsey throw for 322 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. They know he’s capable.

“Ramsey’s a good player. We’ve seen that before, he played good against us last year, and then Penix is a young, talented guy,” Day said. “So we’ve been preparing for both of those guys here all along, and both guys bring different things to the table. Nothing changes that way.

“Even if somebody’s healthy, after the second play, they could go down. So you have to be ready for both and have a plan for both.”

IU will have to plan for the Buckeyes’ dual-threat quarterback, sophomore Justin Fields. Early in the week, defensive coordinator Kane Wommack hinted at some tendencies in the OSU attack, things the Hoosiers could “take advantage of” Saturday.

Wommack also said the Hoosiers will try to get some “pretty good shots” on Fields when he has the ball.

At the same time, it matters how they do it. For instance, redshirt junior Marcelino Ball didn’t start against Eastern Illinois and played fewer snaps than normal as a consequence of mental lapses during the Ball State game, including a couple of personal foul penalties.

Allen said Ball has learned his lesson.

“He’s one of our leaders and I expect high things from those guys, the way that you play and the way you handle yourself during the snap and after the whistle,” Allen said. “I think the message was heard loud and clear. So I appreciate how he responded.”

How will the Hoosiers, as a collective, respond in the biggest game of their young season?

Even with uncertainty at quarterback, IU aims to be resolute.

“You just don’t blink,” Allen said. “You just keep working hard and doing things the right way.”

1. Who’s the QB?

For the first time since fall camp, it’s uncertain who will be behind center for the Hoosiers. Redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr.’s availability will be a game-time decision because of an unknown ailment. If he doesn’t play, the nod goes to last year’s starter, redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey. If it’s Penix, he gets his first crack at a team with college football playoff potential. If it’s Ramsey, what the Hoosiers lose in arm strength, they gain in experience. Tom Allen has said Penix’s injury shouldn’t be a long-term issue, so if he sits, it may be more out of an abundance of caution than anything.

2. Slow down The Predator.

During his time at Ole Miss, Allen saw the long, athletic pass-rushers that populate the SEC. Ohio State has a 6-foot-5, 265-pound junior that looks a lot like those guys. Whoever the quarterback is for IU, the Hoosiers will have to protect him from Chase Young, nicknamed “The Predator.” While senior left tackle Coy Cronk has faced elite pass-rushers, redshirt sophomore right tackle Caleb Jones hasn’t seen anyone with Young’s combination of burst, strength, and arm length. He has three sacks in two games. Can the Hoosier bookends cut him off? Most likely, IU will have to use running backs and tight ends to help in pass protection.

3. Accounting for Fields.

OSU was led by more of a pocket passer last year in Dwayne Haskins. Justin Fields, the transfer from Georgia, will give the Hoosiers more to account for in the run game. The return of sophomore linebacker Cam Jones should give IU another athlete to track Fields, as could a more disciplined Marcelino Ball. But this will be a task for the entire defense. IU will have to be sound in its pass-rush. In the run game, the Hoosiers will have to make tackles in space. J.K. Dobbins (38) has received the bulk of the Buckeyes’ carries, but Fields gets a healthy chunk (21) and averages 4.9 yards per rush.

4. A ‘program-changing’ opportunity.

IU has more losses than any program in history. Ohio State has the second-most wins all-time in college football, trailing only Michigan. That contrast has played out over the years, with the Hoosiers’ last win coming over the Buckeyes on Oct. 8, 1988. At the same time, the Hoosiers have kept it close through two or three quarters the last couple of years. Can a young, hungry team with improved depth get over the hump? Allen believes games like these are “program-changing” opportunities, turning a tide that’s long been against IU. We’ll see if they seize it.

By the numbers

8: Hoosiers from Ohio, including seniors Peyton Ramsey (QB), Simon Stepaniak (OL), and A’Shon Riggins (CB).

12: Top 10 teams IU has played since 2015, tied for the third-most nationally with Auburn and Michigan State. Only Alabama (17) and Ohio State (13) have faced more.

24: Consecutive wins for Ohio State over Indiana.

35: True freshmen to play for third-year coach Tom Allen, including nine this year.

75: Victories for Ohio State over IU out of 92 total contests.


  1. I’m optimistic the gap differential narrows this season. Not a guaranteed the W today but a bigger challenge than the Bucks of the past have faced from IUFB. This years team has taken on the look of the HC, ‘no quit’ attribute and with more talent to back it up. New coordinators a powerful tangible to that talent asset. Turnovers and dominate ST’s will make Saturday evening something to behold.
    GO IU!

  2. Actually, regardless of the season by season scenarios, IU football is actually played in the spring (with rumbles here and there of if this or that) , late summer, and concluding early fall except for a season under Pont and a slim few under Mallory. Success from late 1800s thru the 1950s was sprinkled in here and there. The storylines talking of hope, fascination, and expectations roll on year after year that makes it the IU football tradition. Once again happy new year to the big ten season and the meat of the IU football schedule. By Thanksgiving (start of holiday season for many) the question will be answered for this IU football season. Has the IU football scenario taken on a new/ different direction beginning a new/different tradition. Oh yes, today’s game. Today, OSU VS IU is one game though a great big one for IU, anyway. Sure it is important for OSU as well. However, I would think it is more business as usual for OSU than IU. It is one game and will equal one game worth of this year’s IU football scenario. Win or lose. (It would be good if it actually looks like a competitive football game). There is only a handful of teams asa good as OSU anyway. That’s just reality.
    Having said this usually good teams (not great teams) are usually able to pull off a major upset or beat a highly ranked team (top ten team (higher ranked than top twenty team) once in a while or at least once in a harvest moon.
    Happy IU Big Ten Football Season New Year.

  3. t, well stated post and until IU pulls off a major upset of teams, not having a bad year, rated high in the polls I take a show me attitude. I still am positive about this team and IUFB but getting over the hump takes winning whether it is this game or one of the other top teams.

  4. See what Peyton Ramsey does to an offensive coordinator? Impossible to win when you have a QB that can’t throw the ball down the field.

    1. Yup,
      Can’t keep a defense on the field all day with no support from the offense. Funny, new OC, old QB, better receivers, better backs, even worse results.

  5. Ramsey is playing admirably….I must admit, I was wrong. The kid has guts and game. Some dudes are just ballers. That being said, would love to see some Tuttle. We have nothing to lose.

    1. H4H,
      Ramsey is a great kid, but he is nowhere near a B1G QB. Shut the game off after seeing one too many passes to open receivers who had to slow down because the ball couldn’t get there before the defense. Do agree that might as well give Tuttle some experience. Not going to win 5 without a stronger arm at QB, especially if Penix’s status is unclear.

      1. You’re right…Sad the kid had to be put out for slaughter. Penix would have made little difference…and that’s why I’m glad his very fragile bacon strip legs were spared.
        It’s almost over…as the blood of hype drains out the neck quickly on this lovely Saturday afternoon at the Indiana Oinker & Dink stock yards.

  6. And, like clockwork, OSU shows the difference between a perennially nationally competitive program, versus one that is more excited about it’s new locker room.

    Mistakes, penalties, missed tackles. OSU not doing much of that. They hit and don’t do much to make it harder for themselves.

    Glad these games are on early here on the Left coast.

      1. Maybe it’s time you get over the “winningest coach” malarkey…? Can you see Russia from your current Alaska crib too?

        1. If you come across something I said that was incorrect by all means correct me. If you just wanna whine because I am correct and it gets your panties in a wad…that’s a ‘you’ problem.

  7. Is this a competitive game yet?? Is Indiana competing yet?? Up to this point in the game, Indiana defense has forced only one punt.

  8. Well, that all went south in a hurry.

    The talent difference, especially after the first team, is startling.

  9. At this point, the Kevin Wilson team with a backup quarterback Zander Diamont was more competitive and a lot more exciting to watch.

  10. It’s so very simple. OSU’s players are bigger, faster, stronger and better coached. Without a career day by IU’s best QB, we had no chance in this game. IU’s two new coordinators are getting a humbling learning experience. All the running plays that have been or will be called = wasted downs. Welcome to the Big Ten, Mr. DeBoer. Mr. Womack, teach your players how to tackle. Special teams play is shoddy. IU’s receivers failing to catch passes because OSU’s defenders are stronger than anyone they practice against and strip the ball out of their hands. IU’s players make mental mistakes at the wrong time (off sides on 3rd down) and OSU doesn’t.

    Let’s hope this game does not turn out to a humiliating beat-down on national TV. IU FB has a long way to go.

  11. Urban Meyer has it correctly. this is a total beating. Ohio State is doing everything they want to do. The JK Dobbins (149 yards in a half – career high first half) run sums this game up totally. Six missed tackle, lets find something else to blame for missed tackle.

  12. Good point, IU79. And you’re exactly right! Either this OSU team is vastly superior, or IU has regressed since then.

  13. Hahaha.

    All the talk and hype. What a joke. This team didn’t even show up to play. No heart whatsoever.

    And some blame the fans for not wanting to pay money, and waste time, by showing up to watch this. They don’t have enough kegs of $8 a cup Bud Light to anesthetize yet another crushing of our pathetic program. Hopefully we won the tailgate again. Feel bad for those who actually paid money to go in to a home game fill of visiting fans to watch yet another beating.

    Ohio State could score 90 today if they wanted to.

    1. So true. When the most pumped person before the game is the coach, that’s a true indicator. Like I’ve been saying for 2 years, Hiller’s inability to recruit BIG level OL players and apparently teach them anything is the singlemost weakness. If Dobbins were wearing an IU uni he’d have about 25 yards at halftime.

  14. Our best hit of the day to stop an OSU rusher just came from the umpire….Dude plugged the hole beautifully.

  15. Well, at least we had a good crowd for one half of one game!

    See Mr. Glass, it’s all about the coaching.

  16. Now I know why my long ago college weekends in autumn were filled with playing so much ‘Missile Command.’
    Odd how I forgot to prioritize things naturally….

  17. As I said, I’d wait until the Ohio State game to start forming an opinion on this team.

    About as terrible as any Indiana team I’ve ever seen. OSU is really good, but we’re equally bad. Our defense looks like the one that took the field against Wisconsin in the infamous 83 point game. I’m not really sure what we’re working with here. This isn’t just a bad day. This is just been exposed.

    I see maybe 1 conference win this year. Versus Michigan!

  18. Same old problem, cannot control the LOS on either side of the ball. We get all jacked about our skill position players (running back, receivers, QB), but none of that matters if your OL cannot block. Having a big OL is desirable, but being big and slow, with no quicks or explosiveness will never allow Iu to control the line of scrimmage except for a few FBS teams.

    I withheld comment about IU after both the BSU and EIU games because neither were a quality opponent to assess the strength of this team. When faced with having to play a team with an actual pulse IU folds like a cheap tent.

    Wash, rinse, repeat.

    1. Run the ball, stop the run.
      Protect the QB, rush the passer. 80% dictated at LOS. Not seen overall team speed such as OSU since the heyday of the Canes. I’m not even going to mention size and length. Juggernaut!

  19. TA is in denial. He keeps saying “that’s not who we are” in reference to the terrible tackling. But coach, that is exactly who your team is! Your team is terrible at tackling. Absolutely terrible at tackling. Last year, IU was second from last in the Big Ten in missed tackles. And I think they’re worse this year.

    In relative terms, this is a minor point, but OSU’s defensive backs are holding or interfering on almost every play. I guess I don’t know what pass interference is anymore, but when you’re pulling a guy’s jersey, hooking one of his arms, have your hands around his helmet before the ball arrives, that should be a penalty. Again, the ref’s have a built in bias and will give OSU the benefit of the doubt almost all the time.

    PR is, once again, getting exposed. Great kid, but not a legitimate Big Ten QB. He could easily have thrown four or five INTs today.

  20. I believe OSU will have at least ten players drafted in the first four rounds of next year’s draft. Six of them will probably be defensive players. I hope they go on to win the National Championship this year. That’s the only thing that will make this beat-down tolerable.

  21. Lets get off the game with no injuries…..this “BEATDOWN” reminds me of the Wisconson 83 point game….now the only questions is to see if the players “QUIT”……Every Indiana fan knew the chance of Indiana winning this game was “ZERO” but it really brings reality into this season….Do some of you fans still see this as a 7-8 game winning team, if so “WAKEUP”….maybe 4-5 game season. Tom Allen might be bringing in better recruiting classes, but time will only tell if they are better than recent Indiana teams. Kevin Wilson had some of the best offensive teams in the BIG TEN, but Kevin also had the “WORST” defense in the league….Right now this Indiana team has no identity.

  22. This team spends too much time beating themselves to put together 6 wins. Another year of ugly, mistake-riddled football.

  23. Today after halftime they were mostly out of position to make sure tackles unlike the BSU game where they truly tackled poorly. Ohio State speed will cause near every team to be out of position. Speed makes the opponent think to much.

  24. OSU has significantly widened the gap in dominance vs IU football from about 250 miles apart to the Grand Canyon.

  25. Harvard for Hillbillies says:
    September 11, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    For some reason I thought we were on the road against OSU. Now that I realize we are at home, I’d like to modify my final score prediction(if that’s o.k.).

    OSU 57
    IU 10

    Oops, there it is! …oops, there it is!

  26. Does anyone think it’s time for the president of our university to start answering questions concerning the complete lack of progress from our major sports teams?
    I know he’s from Australia ..but isn’t he carrying things a bit too far with his total contentment of IU being the BigTen ‘shrimp on the barbie?’
    “Throw another OSU beatdown on the grill, Fred….And slather them up with some of that special Sweet 16 sauce from our last reunion party.”

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