CHAMPAIGN IL - OCTOBER 02: Dane Sanzenbacher #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs after catching a pass as Tavon Wilson #3 of the Illinois Fighting Illini closes in at Memorial Stadium on October 2 2010 in Champaign Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2009 record: 5-0 (1-0 Big Ten)
2008 record:-2 (7-1), Big Ten Champions, beat Oregon in Rose Bowl
2009 Sagarin: 6
2010 Sagarin: 6
Coach: Jim Tressel (10th year, 99-21)
Series: Ohio State leads 66-12-5
Last Ohio State win: 10/3/2009 (33-14 in Bloomington)
Last IU win: 10/8/1988 (41-7 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in Columbus: 10/10/1987 (31-10)
TV: noon, ESPN
A week after facing Michigan, the Indiana Hoosiers travel to Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes, currently ranked #2 in the media and coaches' polls and #3 in the Blogpoll. IU has struggled against all of the "big three." IU has never defeated Penn State, last beat Michigan in 1987, and last beat Ohio State in 1988. Still, against Michigan and Penn State, the Hoosiers occasionally have been competitive. Against Ohio State, the last reasonably competitive game was in 1996, when IU lost by 10 in Bill Mallory's last home game. Since then, the closest games have been a 13-point loss in 2001 and last year's 19 point loss. All of the other games have been much worse.
Under Jim Tressel,.the Buckeyes have shaken the "talented underachivers" reputation that they earned when John Cooper was the coach. OSU has shared or won outright the Big Ten championship in six of Tressel's first 9 years. The Buckeyes won the BCS national championship in 2002 and played in and lost the BCS title game on two other occasions. Ohio State likely will be favored in all of its remaining games and has a decent chance of getting back again.
The key to the 2010 Buckeyes is quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who at 6-5 is one of the most imposing dual threat quarterbacks the game has seen. While Pryor's running ability is an important part of his game, he has emerged as a passer, beginning during the Buckeyes' blowout win in the Rose Bowl last season. Pryor injured his quadriceps against Illinois, but he will play against IU. It's not clear whether he will be limited in any way.
It's no surprise, given their ranking, that the Buckeyes have excelled on both sides of the ball. Tressel's approach is a traditional Big Ten style: run-heavy, ball control offense and excellent defense. Still, the Buckeyes, despite continuing to rely on the running game, have averaged over 44 points per game this season, good enough for # 8 nationally. Still, the passing game remains a threat. Pryor is averaging 203 yards per game, completing 65 percent of his passes, and has thrown 12 TDs compared to 3 INTs. Pryor leads OSU in rushing with 373 yards and 6.9 yards per carry, plus 3 touchdowns. Other keys to the running game are Daneil Herron (65-287, 5 TD) and Brandon Saine (44-183, 2 TD). Dane Sanzenbacher, in what feels like his 12th year in Columbus, leads the Buckeyes with 351 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.
On defense, in nearly every category (total defense, rush defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense) the Buckeyes rank #18 or better nationally. The only exception, which is perhaps a bit of good news, is that the Bucks are averaging only 1.6 sacks per game, slightly below average nationally. It would be very difficult for IU to contend in this game if Ohio State is successful pressuring Ben Chappell, and hopefully this number bodes well for IU. Also, the Buckeyes have lost linebacker Tyler Moeller, their leader in tackles for loss, for the season.
As I noted above, even compared to the two other Big Ten schools with decade-plus winning streaks against IU, Michigan and Penn State, the OSU series has not been competitive. They Buckeyes are a complete team, and IU is playing them on the road. This is shaping up to be a strange season for IU. We were not challenged in our first three games, but neither would have been any other Big Ten team (okay, Minnesota). The long-targeted Michigan game was as competitive as expected, but did not yield a win, and it's far from clear whether Michigan is anything but an average team. OSU is heavily favored this weekend. IU will be heavily favored against Arkansas State next weekend. As I have said before, the Illinois and Northwestern Games, on October 23 and October 30, will determine the course of the season. It's hard to believe that we will be nearly to November before we know very much about this team.
I would love to predict, "Darkest Day, Part 2." If Terrelle Pryor struggles because of his injury, I suppose anything is possible. Even if IU gets its points, and even if Pryor is limited or even misses some or all of the game, can IU's defense stop OSU's running backs or bakcup QB? It strikes me as a stretch, although I certainly hope I'm wrong.
Ohio State 38, Indiana 20.