Indiana begins one of the most important seasons in the history of its football program on Sept. 4. The Hoosiers are coming off a 6-2 campaign and an Outback Bowl berth in 2020 and are expected to be a preseason Top 25 team. We are profiling each of the 12 teams Indiana will face this season as they try to build on that momentum
Opponent: Ohio State
Date/Time/TV: Oct. 23, time and television TBA.
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington.
2020 record/bowl result: 7-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten, Big Ten champions, defeated Clemson 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl, lost 52-24 to Alabama in College Football Playoff National Championship.
Returning Starters, Offense (7): RB Master Teague III, WR Garrett Wilson, WR Chris Olave, TE Jeremy Ruckert, LT Thayer Munford, LG Harry Miller, RT Nicholas Petit-Frere.
Staters Lost, Offense (4): QB Justin Fields, TE Luke Farrell, C Josh Myers, RG Wyatt Davis.
Offensive Outlook: The Buckeyes lost the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player the Year in Justin Fields, second-team All-Big Ten tailback Trey Sermon, and first-team All-Big Ten picks at both center and right guard and they still promise to have the most explosive offense in the Big Ten because that’s just how things go for the Buckeyes at this point. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave give Ohio State one of the best receiving corps in the nation, and they have Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka behind them. Fleming was the highest rated wide receiver recruit in the nation in 2020 and Egbuka took the top spot in 2021.
Teague rushed for 491 yards and eight touchdowns in six games despite splitting carries with Sermon, and Ruckert could be one of the most talented tight ends in the Big Ten. The offensive line losses are significant, but Munford is also an All-Big Ten pick so there is strength there as well. The one major issue the Buckeyes have to address is quarterback, as Fields through every single pass for Ohio State in 2021 and coach Ryan Day decided not to address the spot through the transfer portal. Freshman Kyle McCord, the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class, will be battling C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller for the position. Stroud was the No. 2 quarterback in the 2020 class and MIller was the No. 13 quarterback in the class.
Returning Starters, Defense (5): DT Haskell Garrett, DE Tyreke Smith, CB Sevyn Banks, S Marcus Hooker, S Marcus Williamson
Starters Lost, Defense (6): DE Jonathan Cooper, DT Tommy Togiai, LB Pete Werner, LB Tuf Borland, LB Baron Browning, CB Shaun Wade.
Defensive Outlook: As usual, Ohio State’s defense got hit hard by the NFL draft, and as usual, the Buckeyes should be just fine on that side of the ball. Haskell Garrett returns after being named a first-team All-American by CBS Sports and defensive end Zach Harrison returns after earning All-Big Ten recognition without ever starting a game. There will be shakeups in the linebacking corps with all the starters gone and in the secondary with Marcus Hooker demoted after an offseason OVI charge and Williamson in the mix at the nickel position, but they have four-star seniors who have waited their turn waiting in the wings. The Buckeyes do have to get much better against the pass, however. Indiana’s Ty Fryfogle went wild on them last season as did Alabama’s Devonta Smith, and Ohio State finished the season ranked last in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 304.0 yards per game.
Special Teams Returners (1): LS Bradley Robinson
Special Teams Loss (1): K Blake Haubeil, P Drue Chrisman.
Special Teams Outlook: The Buckeyes need to find new options at basically every important special teams role. Jake Seibert appears to be the front-runner for the kicker job and punter Jesse Mirco the likely option at punter.
Overall outlook: Ohio State is still Ohio State and even after losing the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and five defensive starters to the draft, the Buckeyes will be everybody’s pick to win the Big Ten and position themselves for a College Football Playoff berth. That being said, Indiana gave the Buckeyes the strongest run for their money before Alabama housed them for the title, battling from a large deficit to come within a touchdown of an upset. The Hoosiers get the Buckeyes at home this time around, and they still have the quarterback from last year’s shootout while Ohio State has to find a new one. The Buckeyes will assuredly still be favored and they will approach this one with perhaps an even more healthy respect for what Indiana is capable of, but that doesn’t mean an upset is impossible.
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