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Big Ten opponent preview: Ohio State

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The Buckeyes pay a visit to Bloomington on Oct. 23

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Zach Harrison (9) hits the arm of Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) as he throws the ball during the first quarter in their NCAA Division I football game on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Editor’s note: With the season fast approaching, we want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with each of Indiana’s Big Ten opponents this fall. Thanks to insights from our SB Nation partners, the series continues today.)

Next up: Ohio State

Ohio State - Gene Ross (Land-Grant Holy Land)

Key departures

  • Justin Fields (QB)
  • Trey Sermon (RB)
  • Wyatt Davis (OL)
  • Josh Myers (OL)
  • Tommy Togiai (DT)
  • Pete Werner (LB)
  • Baron Browning (LB)
  • Shaun Wade (CB)

Key returnees

  • Chris Olave (WR)
  • Garrett Wilson (WR)
  • Thayer Munford (OL)
  • Nicholas Petit-Frere (OL)
  • Haskell Garrett (DT)
  • Zach Harrison (DE)
  • Tyreke Smith (DE)
  • Sevyn Banks (CB)

Potentially impactful freshmen and transfers:

  • Jack Sawyer (DE)
  • J.T. Tuimoloau (DE)
  • TreVeyon Henderson (RB)
  • Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR)

How does Ohio State look entering the fall?

The offense should keep on buzzing even after losing Justin Fields to the NFL Draft. Former five-star QB CJ Stroud won the starting job, and he has the best wide receiver tandem in the country to throw to in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson with former five-star Jaxon Smith Njigba in the slot. The offensive line should be fantastic, and five-star freshman TreVeyon Henderson will be an upgrade at running back.

The defense is where all of the questions lie, especially with Ohio State having to replace all three of its starting linebackers. The defensive line should be really, really good, with Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith and Haskell Garrett all returning, plus the addition of five-star freshmen Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau. The move to a 4-2-5 defense should ease some of the linebacker losses, but the secondary is largely unproven outside of Sevyn Banks. They will need some of their young, inexperienced — but highly-touted — DBs to step up.

Biggest strength

Passing game. Stroud should have no problem getting the ball to a litany of former five-star prospects he has to throw to, especially with Olave and Wilson out there as your top two guys.

Biggest weakness

Secondary. Ohio State’s passing defense was tremendously bad last season, and they will need to turn it around this year if they have any hopes of competing for a national title. They have the pieces to do it and a new scheme to attempt to fix some of last year’s issues, but it remains to be seen whether it will all come together.

How does the fan base feel about Ryan Day and his staff?

Ryan Day is the perfect guy to lead this program. A seemingly great dude on and off the field, his coaching style and recruiting chops have been nothing short of tremendous. He has also put together a pretty strong staff around him in guys like Brian Hartline (wide receivers) and Al Washington (linebackers). Kerry Coombs’ (DC) ability to call a defense is still in question, but there is no doubting his energy and his ability to recruit defensive backs.

Who is Ohio State’s MVP this season and why?

Chris Olave. The star wide receiver would’ve likely been a first- or second-round pick had he left for the NFL Draft at the end of last season. He is simply one of the best wide receivers in college football with his ability to always create separation from opposing defenders, his high football IQ and his incredibly dependable hands.

Predict Ohio State’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss

12-0 with a B1G title and CFP selection.

Best win: Oregon

Potential surprise loss: Minnesota/Indiana

What else should we know about Ohio State this year?

Ohio State’s move to a 4-2-5 on defense will incorporate a new ‘Bullet’ position, which is a safety/linebacker hybrid. This should hopefully alleviate some of the issues they had in the secondary last season, as there will only be two linebackers on the field at any given time plus three corners, a safety and the bullet. The two players fighting for the starting job at this new position are Craig Young (a natural LB) and Ronnie Hickman (a natural safety), so they could use both of their skillsets in different ways. Sevyn Banks will be the top corner, with Lathan Ransom likely the starting slot corner. The other outside corner is still up in the air but it’ll most likely be Cam Brown, although he is coming off an Achilles injury suffered early last season.