Each week until the season, we'll be going through the opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. This week: O-H!
GAME 5: THE ohio state buckeyes
Last year's record: 12-1
2015 Final F/+ Ranking: 3
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
When: October 8, TBA
1. Horseshoes, hand grenades, and IU football
Three out of the past four years, IU has come close to beating Ohio State - twice at Memorial Stadium and once on the road. Four years ago, in Urban Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes and Hoosiers played a wild, four-hour long night game in Bloomington. During this game, Indiana cut an 18-point deficit down to three in the final two minutes, but ran out of time in a furious comeback effort, losing 52-49. At the Horseshoe two years later, IU took a late third quarter lead on the Buckeyes, thanks mostly to Tevin Coleman's 228-yard day out of the backfield. But Jalin Marshall scored four straight unanswered touchdowns for the Buckeyes, putting the game out of reach.
Last season, the stakes were raised even further, with both teams at 4-0 and playing their B1G openers. And despite our unsuccessful campaign to get College Gameday to come to Bloomington, the game still sold out, and the crowd was lit. Though the Hoosiers lost both Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard to injury during the game, and despite Ezekiel Elliott torching IU all day, the Hoosiers had four chances to tie (or even win) from five yards away in the closing seconds, thanks to some gutsy scrambling from Zander Diamont. They could not capitalize - yes there may have also been a missed pass interference call, but in the end the Hoosiers fell 34-27.
How rough would a loss to Indiana be for OSU fans? Let's just leave it at this. When the Hoosiers beat Ohio State in Columbus in 1987, then-OSU coach Earle Bruce called it "The Darkest Day in Ohio State History." Indiana won again the next season. They haven't beaten the Buckeyes since. Yes, almost beating OSU doesn't count in the win column. But it is a sign of continued progress for a program that's been built from the ground up since Kevin Wilson arrived six seasons ago.
2. Recruiting isn't everything
College football recruiting coverage can often frustrate me. I understand it's part of the business and fans are always eager to hear where top players will end up. But people need to calm down about how recruiting rankings are the be-all and end-all of a team's success. Players on last year's OSU team (mostly 2011-2014 recruits) were all part of recruiting classes that ranked no lower than 7th nationally according to 247Sports. Aside from a couple good Michigan classes, no one in the B1G even came close to matching OSU in recruiting during this timeframe. But despite the amazing recruiting abilities of Urban Meyer and his staff, Ohio State has only won the conference once in three eligible years. Thus, getting the top recruits puts your team in contention every year, but just because you have the most blue-chippers by far doesn't guarantee you a conference title.
Take last year's OSU team as an example. Despite going 12-1, 2015 was still a disjointed and disappointing season for the Buckeyes. They didn't decide on a starting QB until literally the first snap of the season, they struggled to put away both Northern Illinois and Indiana, Cardale Jones couldn't recapture the magic of the 2014 title run, Tom Herman's absence at OC was noticed, J.T. Barrett was arrested for a DUI, and finally OSU lost at home to Michigan State's backup QB, after which Ezekiel Elliott had a much-publicized blowup with his coaches. With the amount of talent on that team (including five first-round NFL Draft picks), Ohio State should have gone further than second in the conference and a Fiesta Bowl berth. But alas, talent's not all that wins the titles in this sport.
3. After a decade of Treselball, Urban Meyer has made Ohio State fun again
Sure, they were really good every year, but wow was Ohio State under Jim Tressel a hard team for the casual fan to watch. Tressel emphasized defense and field position as coach. Which is fine if you make it work like he did, but isn't exactly the most compelling football, especially at the college ranks.
In 2012, a year after Tressel's unceremonious demise, Urban Meyer brought his spread offense north to Columbus. Already, Meyer has had three quarterbacks who can light up scoreboards, and wideouts and running backs who can score with flair. Like Indiana, they're reversing the idea that Big Ten football has to be all about low scoring, off tackle runs, and punting inside the opponent's 40. For a league that's still very set in its ways - especially in the western division - this is a welcome change. The offense dropped off in production last season after Tom Herman left for Houston, but with J.T. Barrett still running the show, you should make time to watch the Buckeyes on fall Saturdays, which is something you couldn't always say about Tresselball.
4. You should watch Ohio State play at Oklahoma on Sept. 17
September 17 is during IU's bye week. Since the Hoosiers aren't playing that day, may I suggest watching Ohio State play at Oklahoma? Under longtime AD Gene Smith, the Buckeyes have always scheduled good out of conference opponents, and the Sooners, who return most players from an explosive offense, should provide a reloading OSU team with an early challenge. Whoever wins this game should be a national title contender and can probably afford a loss in their conference but still be in title contention. The loser will most likely have to run the table in conference, and now that the B1G plays nine games instead of eight, that's an extra conference game for the Buckeyes to get past.
5. Return of the Greg
Hey, remember Greg Schiano? He left Rutger to become an NFL coach, which worked terribly aside from the greatest Breaking Madden episode ever made. Anyway, after a couple years of laying low following the disaster with the Bucs, he's back in the college ranks, as the defensive coordinator for his old buddy Urban. Ironically enough, the guy who he's replacing at DC, Chris Ash, left OSU to become the head coach at - you guessed it - Rutger. Look, we can make all the Schiano Man jokes we want, but he was the first dude to be successful coaching Rutger football in over a century, so maybe he's just more suited toward the college ranks. This is a cushy landing spot for Schiano, and if he does well in Columbus, there's no doubt in my mind he'll be a head coach at another FBS school within the next 2-3 years.
6. Let's hear from our readers
We asked you guys what you thought of Ohio State. Once again, you delivered:
@crimsonquarry Urban's team was 12-0 when facing starting QBs last season; another successful year— Pete Rossman (@PeteAtTOC) June 30, 2016
I can't emphasize this enough: Ohio State lost at home to Michigan State's backup QB, and almost lost at home to Indiana's backup.
@crimsonquarry Mirror Lake is a cesspool— Eric Thaman (@thamgame) June 30, 2016
(Bucknuts dot com commenter voice) WELL OF COURSE IT IS CUZ WE KEEP BEATING MICHIGAN YEAR AFTER YEAR WOOOOOOOOO O-H-I-O
However, the tradition of OSU fans jumping into Mirror Lake after a Michigan victory has tragically come to an end, after a student was found dead in the lake after last year's game. This is probably best for everyone involved.
@crimsonquarry Eli Apple can't cook— Lucas Rubey (@Lrubey) June 30, 2016
Huge red flag right here folks. You really have to question his ability to succeed in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
@crimsonquarry mark my words, (screenshot it or whatever u gotta do), we are winning that game this year. We come so close each year— Kenneth Dubya (@kwjordan1999) June 30, 2016
There you have it: Hoosiers win on a last-second field goal. The kick will indeed be good.
The CQ Summer Preview Series will run every week, focusing on a different 2016 Indiana Football opponent each time. Next up: Nebraska.