This is, frankly, the game on this schedule that seems most hopeless. While IU has occasionally drawn Michigan and Penn State into close games, the Ohio State series has been consistently uncompetitive. It hasn't always been that way. From 1986 to 1993, an eight game stretch, IU managed two blowout wins, a tie, and four of IU's five losses were by 6 points or fewer. Since a six-point loss in 1993, however, the Hoosiers 10-point loss in 1996 is the only time they have been that close. Of course, much of it has to do with the quality of the programs. IU has struggled since 1993, and Ohio State has been the gold standard in the conference at least since Jim Tressel came aboard in 2001, and probably had more talent than any other program in the 1990s, despite John Cooper's struggles to beat Michigan and win bowl games. In 2009, despite an inexplicable loss to Purdue, the Buckeyes finished 9-2 and became the first Big Ten team in a decade to win the Rose Bowl (not since Wisconsin in 2000, believe it or not). In the recently released coaches' poll, Ohio State ranks #2, and is the only team other than defending national champion Alabama to have received a first place vote. Oh, and this game is on the road.
Why are the Buckeyes so highly touted? Well, they return Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is something of a lightning rod around the Big Ten blogosphere and elsewhere, in no small part because of his high profile recruitiment, in which Big Ten powers Penn State and Michigan were the other schools Pryor seriously considered. He has been a bit of a disappointment as a passer, completing 60 percent of his passes as a freshman and dropping to 56 as a sophomore, but he's a serious running threat. He ran for 631 yards as a freshman and 779 as a sophomore and his career rushing average is nearly 5 yards per carry. He did play very well against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, completing 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards, by far his career highs in attempts and yards. While Pryor was the leading rusher, others contributed enough to make the Buckeyes a top 20 rushing offense (although their overall offensive rank was mediocre). OSU's top two running backs, Brandon Saine and Dan Herron, both return (as do their top two receivers, DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher.
Of course, defense was the reason why the Buckeyes won the Big Ten. OSU's defense was dominant across the board. They ranked #5 in total defense, scoring defense, and run defense, and #7 in pass defense. The Buckeyes return six starters from the excellent 2009 defense and almost always have excelled under Tressel in this regard. The Horseshoe has been a house of horrors for IU, but it's always a good time to start a new trend, right?