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Ohio State 42, Indiana 35 | Scarlet & Gray Matter analysis

Joey Kaufman and Ray Stein
Columbus Dispatch

Observations on Saturday's Ohio State-Indiana game, by Joey Kaufman and Ray Stein:

The game at hand

• Short-attention span synopsis: Ohio State survives Justin Fields’ rare charity drive. Buckeyes keep painting first-half masterpieces, then let them sit outside in second-half rain. Is Indiana the new bully to watch on Big Ten’s East Side? Spoiler alert: Hoosiers come close to taking down Michigan, Penn State and OSU all in one year.

• Pregame buzz: There have been plenty of high-stakes matchups over the years at the Horseshoe, but they never involved Indiana. Largely a Big Ten cellar-dweller in the past five decades, the Hoosiers usually were a punching a bag for the Buckeyes. But in 2020, they were a serious roadblock in Ohio State’s effort to win the Big Ten East. Not only was first place in the division up in the air, but the teams also were meeting for the time while both were ranked in the top 10.

Spread the wealth?: Gamblers who believe in Ohio State may have to consider reconsider laying cash on the pregame point spreads and move to prop bets. Like, over/under on Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave having 100-yard games. The Buckeyes are not coming through in the big picture. Sure, they had the 20½-point spread covered by halftime in taking a 28-7 lead, but their second-half defensive pratfalls allowed Indiana to shrink-wrap that number to single digits.

Ohio State players including Jameson Williams (6) congratulate Josh Proctor (41) for a big hit on a first-quarter kickoff return.

Strategically speaking: The Buckeyes allowed Indiana to remain within one touchdown with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter after they failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Hoosiers’ 7-yard line. Ryan Day said he opted against attempting a short field goal in an attempt to go ahead by two touchdowns, mentioning the success of Indiana’s offense. He was doubtful a 10-point lead would do much. “We're going to be aggressive in those situations,” Day said.

This week in vanity plates: DBS NSFW

The View

• How the team sees it: We’re a few days away from Thanksgiving and we’ve only played four games?

• How the playoff committee will see it: You’re going to need to beat more than one team with a winning record to grab the top seed in our rankings.

• How Buckeye Nation will see it: Is Mac Jones or Trevor Lawrence going to pick apart our secondary like Michael Penix Jr. did?

Hey, what did Day say?

What he said: "Definitely not pleased. Long way from pleased. We got long ways to go."

What it means: "We’ll have a chance to improve if we can play the rest of our schedule without interruption."

They said it

Your turn/the channel: The Big Noon coverage from the upstarts at Fox started with Urban Meyer grumbling about wet weather and soon swung into full love-letter mode with unabashed fan Gush Johnson heaping praise on his “world famous Ohio State Buckeyes.” Dude doesn’t even try to curb his enthusiasm, but say this: He’s not boring. Moment of silence, however, for anyone who was in a drinking game and had to take a shot every time Johnson said “partner.” That’s gonna hurt for a while.

Numbers for dummies

491: Passing yards by Michael Penix Jr., the fourth-most ever in a game against Ohio State, behind only Illinois’ Dave Wilson (621) in 1980, Purdue’s Scott Campbell (516) in 1981 and Purdue’s Jim Everett (497) in 1985.

52-28: Margin the Buckeyes have been outscored in the second half in their two most recent games, against Indiana and Rutgers.

169: Rushing yards by running back Master Teague III, the most in his career.

4: Times in four games this season that the Buckeyes have scored on the opening drive of the game.

0: Points off the three turnovers forced by Indiana. Through their first four games, the Hoosiers had averaged nearly 13 points off turnovers, leading the country.

146: Passer efficiency rating by quarterback Justin Fields, the second-lowest in a game in his career with the Buckeyes, trailing only a 122.1 mark from last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal loss.  

5: Sacks allowed by the Buckeyes, equaling the most they have allowed in a game in the last four seasons. Wisconsin also sacked Fields five times in both games last season.

8: Tackles by linebacker Baron Browning, the most in a game in his four seasons at Ohio State.

3: Field goals missed by the Buckeyes this season. All from three kickers: Blake Haubeil, Dominic DiMaccio and Jake Seibert, who missed a 44-yard attempt against Indiana.

635: Saturday’s official attendance, a tally that includes the teams, TV crew, media members, security and event operations, forming the smallest crowd in Ohio Stadium’s history. Families were not permitted to attend for the first time this season.

On tap

The buildup for next week’s trip to Illinois grew a little bit after it put together a convincing win over Nebraska on Saturday. The Fighting Illini have not had a winning season since 2011 and do not appear likely to finish with a record above .500 this fall after they started 0-3, but they strung together a pair of wins. Their 41-23 victory over the Cornhuskers followed a triumph over Rutgers the previous week. The Buckeyes are facing Illinois for the first time since 2017.

Tweethearts

Reactions to the game on Twitter:

@MartiniHockey: Indiana may be the best football team the Buckeyes play all season. If that doesn’t summarize how weird 2020 is, I don’t know what does. 

@nishantrk0: Ohio State is just perennially cursed by fumble reviews ever since that Clemson game. 

@Datoineblaze: I’m going to be stressing over every play this entire game. 

@AlexMeiring: Justin Fields are you okay? Probably just needs a hug. We all need a hug. 

@OilerBuck: Okay. Fess up. Who broke Justin Fields? 

@yodameister: Teague showing he has some wheels. Yes sir. 

@JPROtich: This Buckeye game is all over the place. I’m screaming then panicking then smiling then cursing. It’s everything we needed. 

@jandrusk: @IndianaFootball, Obey your master, master of Teague is pulling your strings. 

@JWherle: HOLY HELL! @bigten replay actually reviewed a fumble and confirmed it!!! It's a new day 

@MRegelski: Fields please do not do that type of jumping in the end zone. We need you safe. 

@JonBauer7576: Well, you can say this for the secondary today: keeps you in your seat. 

@JoshHippenmeyer: Justin Fields channeling his inner Andy Dalton today. 

@ImSeanByron: Only The Ohio State Buckeyes get me from Happy to Xanax in a matter of 15 minutes 

@buggerslife: If Mack Jones throws 3 INTs against a top 10 team, is Alabama up 21 points through 3 quarters?? 

@BuckeyesBrowns: You can tell which Buckeyes fans are also root for the Browns. They are the ones who want to bench the QB, and freak out because it’s a dogfight against the 9th ranked team. 

@JRusznakPT: How does the announcer know what play Indiana is going to run and the Buckeyes defensive coaches don't? 

K_James_B: With this secondary, I don’t want to be in the Playoff. 

@MooneysRebelion: Yeah, this OSU defense is not dynamic at all. It’s not even namic right now. 

Horseshoe haiku

Secondary? Nope, 

Those Buckeyes DBs are a 

primary problem

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

rstein@dispatch.com