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Guest commentary: Rashard Fant previews IU’s showdown at Ohio State

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The No. 9 Hoosiers look to take sole possession of 1st place in the Big Ten East and continue their journey towards a Big Ten Championship

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Indiana at Illinois
Indiana corner Rashard Fant celebrates after breaking up a pass on Nov. 11, 2017.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(Editor’s note: This post was written by former All-Big Ten corner Rashard Fant, Indiana’s program leader in passes defended and pass breakups. Rashard was one of my favorite Hoosiers to watch and cover during my time on the IU beat, and we really appreciate his willingness to stop by and offer insights into Saturday’s matchup in Columbus. Take it away, Rashard!)

By: Rashard Fant

This season of Indiana football has brought so much joy and happiness to many IU fans. I know this season has made me feel like I am back in the IU uniform. Although I did not have the opportunity to play in a game as meaningful as this one, I do have the experience of playing against a Top 10 Ohio State team. That is why I thought it would be cool to write a game preview from the perspective of a former All-Big Ten Indiana Hoosier cornerback. I hope you all enjoy it!

Ohio State v Indiana
Indiana corner Rashard Fant tackles Ohio State’s Braxton Miller during a game at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 3, 2015.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Key Matchup: Indiana’s Secondary vs. Ohio State’s Passing Attack

When analyzing both teams and looking at their strengths, this matchup will be the most important of this game. Both the Indiana secondary and Ohio State’s passing offense are performing at a high level. Indiana’s Secondary has consistently made big-time interceptions, sacks, and pass breakups. This tenacity is why I am not surprised that Indiana’s defense is leading the Big Ten in interception and sacks. On the flip side, Ohio State’s offense, based on efficiency, attempts, yards, and touchdowns, is #1 in passing offense in the Big Ten. They are continually making big plays. OSU Quarterback Justin Fields is completing passes at a high rate and has yet to throw an interception this season. During Saturday’s game, whichever team is able to win this matchup will ultimately be the reason their team is victorious.

Player to Watch: Tiawan Mullen

Tiawan Mullen has quickly become one of the best cornerbacks and most versatile defensive players, not just in the Big Ten but in all of college football. He has started this season strong and continues to prove why he was an All-Big Ten Defensive Preseason Selection. Mullen has played multiple roles for the IU defense this season, particularly switching between nickel and corner. These roles have required him to blitz off the edge, drop back into zone coverage, or be a lockdown man corner when necessary. His ability to perform at a high level at both nickel and corner is a huge reason for the success of the Indiana defense. Mullen’s playmaking ability, confidence level, and leadership continue to ignite this defense and push them towards greatness. I am excited to watch how DC Coach Kane Wommack and the Hoosier defensive staff will utilize Mullen on Saturday against the Buckeyes’ offense.

Keys to Victory for Indiana:

Before every game, the head coach will provide his team with “Keys to Victory.” After watching both the 2020 Buckeyes football team and the 2020 Hoosier football team, these are the keys I imagine Coach Tom Allen will give:

1. Play fast and Play physical

2. Win one-on-one matchups across the board

3. Win the turnover battle

4. Win the field position battle

*For the IU coaching staff: The ability to make the necessary in-game adjustments

In past Indiana vs. Ohio State matchups, Hoosier teams have failed at achieving many of these “Keys to Victory” mentioned above. These failures have led to many blown chances and close losses. With that being said, I believe this season and the 2020 Indiana Football team are different. The talent, hard work, confidence, versatility, and coaching of this Hoosier Football team separates them from many of the past Indiana teams. Saturday, November 21st, will be a game to remember and one of the most significant in Indiana Football history. Saturday is also another opportunity for this Hoosier Football team to demonstrate to the world of college football that they are a team to be reckoned with and are here to stay.