With the sixth game week of the Ohio State football season having begun, the biggest question might be what presents the most challenge for the third-ranked Buckeyes in their next game.
Indiana or complacency? The Hoosiers or lack of focus?
“We haven’t had that conversation yet. We will,” coach Urban Meyer said Monday. “That’s real. …Especially in places like Ohio State where it will beat a really good team, and now prepare for another really good team. That will be the message.”
The really good team the Buckeyes just beat is then-No. 9 Penn State in a 27-26 thriller.
Although the Hoosiers don’t have the prestige nor the ranking of the Nittany Lions, they will bring a 4-1 record to Ohio Stadium on Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff.
Their loss came two weeks ago at Michigan State. They’ve beaten Florida International, Virginia, Ball State and most recently Rutgers — not exactly murderer’s row, but a group including Power 5 opponents.
And that’s where the concern about the Buckeyes beating themselves comes in, especially considering recent history.
This is the second consecutive season Ohio State won a one-point contest against a Penn State team ranked in the top 10.
Last year the Buckeyes followed up an emotional and draining triumph by traveling to Iowa and playing their worst game of the season. The Hawkeyes, already an afterthought in the Big Ten with three losses, dropped 55 points on Ohio State and beat them by 31.
That result reverberated across college football and eventually cost Ohio State a chance to play in the College Football Playoff.
Meyer refused to revisit the Iowa debacle, but he did reveal another message for his team this week.
“There was a little bit of a call to arms meeting yesterday that we still need more production from some people who have either been with the program for a year or two or are freshmen that are talented but they’ve got to play,” Meyer said. “Every team is dealing with it right now with game six coming up.
“Guys have to contribute in some way or another. That was the message yesterday. That will be it as we continue to move forward.”
He did not name who he wants to see more from, but there is no shortage of talent on the bench when a program recruits the way Ohio State does.
Among those less than 100 percent at this point in the season are defensive linemen Dre’Mont Jones and Wayne grad Robert Landers, running back Mike Weber and cornerback Damon Arnette.
“It was a tough game,” Meyer said. “Dre’Mont is probable. He has a strain, but he’s very probable. Damon Arnette is probable. And Landers didn’t play (like) himself and Mike Weber didn’t play (like) himself (last week). They’re closer, but better than last week.”
Walking wounded aside, Ohio State will also go into the game against Indiana without starting safety Isaiah Pryor for the first half.
He was ejected from the Penn State game after being flagged for targeting, a call Meyer seemed to indicate he didn’t think should have been made.
“I understand it,” he said. “Do I agree with it? I don’t have time to argue with it. The call was made. Once again you talk about safety in players — we’re all in here.”
Pryor and K.J. Hamler came together as the Penn State receiver leapt to make a catch in the fourth quarter. Hamler’s head hit the ground hard, and he was injured on the play.
“There’s no intent,” Meyer said. “There is no targeting, and we had a couple of those around here where the guys going to try to wipe them out, if you watch him he’s going for the ball and contact was made. No time to argue.”