As college football season draws ever-closer, we’re running down Indiana’s schedule to preview all 12 opponents for 2023.
We’ll start with the season opener, and it’s a big one. IU hosts Ohio State to kick off 2023. The Hoosiers have not beaten the Buckeyes since 1988 — Ohio State has won 21 consecutive games against IU. If the Hoosiers end the streak this year, it would significantly reshape the season outlooks for both teams.
- Opponent: Ohio State
- Date/Time/TV: Saturday, September 2, 3:30 p.m., CBS
- Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
- 2022 record/postseason result: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff, lost to Georgia in semifinals (Peach Bowl)
Returning production, offense: 57 percent (per Bill Connelly/ESPN)
Offensive outlook: Ohio State lost some big names on offense in quarterback C.J. Stroud, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. (although Smith-Njigba missed most of last season). So the Buckeyes offense will look a little different this year, but they are still loaded with talent. They’ve yet to name a starting quarterback, and it looks like it’ll be either junior Kyle McCord (rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports in 2021) and redshirt freshman Devin Brown (four-star recruit in 2022). But OSU has, perhaps, the best receiver in the country in Marvin Harrison Jr., and slot receiver Emeka Egbuka’s stats were not far off Harrison’s last year.
The Buckeyes had some turnover on the offensive line, with at least three new starters this year. If that doesn’t go well, it could be a problem for OSU. Another thing to watch is play-calling: offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline called plays during Ohio State’s spring game, and there’s a real chance he’s tabbed with those duties for the regular season. Head coach Ryan Day has not yet made that official; Day has been OSU’s offensive play-caller since 2017.
Still, it would be a surprise if Ohio State’s offense isn’t good. The question is more about how good it’ll be.
Returning production, defense: 77 percent (per Bill Connelly/ESPN)
Defensive outlook: Only Michigan has more returning defensive production in the Big Ten than Ohio State. First team All-Big Ten linebacker Tommy Eichenberg headlines the unit, after finishing second in the conference in tackles (120) and fourth in tackles for loss (12). Defensive end JT Tuimoloau was also first team All-Big Ten, and finished just behind Eichenberg with 11 tackles for loss.
The Buckeyes finished in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in just about every defensive category: seventh in scoring defense and rushing defense, and sixth in passing defense and total defense. They started to show cracks late in the season last year, although against some tough opponents. But OSU’s defense was improved from its 2021 version, and with six returning starters and productive backups stepping into larger roles, the unit could continue improving.
Returning starters, special teams: kickoff specialist Jayden Fielding, punter/holder Jesse Mirco, kickoff returner Xavier Johnson, punt returner Emeka Egbuka
Special teams outlook: Ohio State loses placekicker Noah Ruggles, who finished second in the Big Ten last year with an 85 percent clip on field goal attempts (17 for 20). Fielding, who handled kickoffs last year, will take over place-kicking duties. The Buckeyes also have a new long snapper in Arizona State transfer John Ferlmann.
But OSU’s other specialists are all back. Mirco averaged 45.4 yards per punt last year, good for 12th in the nation and third in the Big Ten. Ohio State did not have any return touchdowns last year, and finished eighth in the conference in kickoff return average and sixth in punt return average.
Overall Outlook: Though Ohio State’s schedule is not the cushiest you’ll ever see, it’s probably not hyperbole to suggest the Buckeyes are already looking ahead to the Michigan game at the end of the season. Ohio State will fully expect that game to decide the Big Ten East, although Penn State could have another idea. OSU has some question marks, particularly at quarterback and offensive line. That could determine just how good this team can be. But the Buckeyes, as usual, are teeming with NFL prospects. And if things break right, they could be one of the best teams in the country.
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