Ohio State football: Finishing strong a focus for Buckeyes in Bloomington

Before the season, No. 5 Ohio State’s trip to Indiana was circled as a potential big game.

Now that it is here, it looks more like a trap game.

Here are five things to know about the game that will be played under the lights in Bloomington on Saturday night:

1. Indiana’s offense is a mess.

The Hoosiers (2-4) have lost two in a row and are 107th in the nation in both scoring and total offense with a passing game (88th) and running game (96th) that have struggled to about an equal degree.

Standout quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was knocked out of the Hoosiers’ loss to Penn State two weeks ago, missed a loss to Michigan State last week and is not expected to play this week.

He was struggling before suffering a shoulder injury, though, and Indiana’s offensive line hasn’t matched its recent high standard.

“You have to evaluate why,” head coach Tom Allen said. “You look play calling, the scheme, the guys executing. It’s a combination of everything for sure.

“At the end of the day players have to make those plays. We got to put them in position to make those plays. You make those plays when you’re confident and decisive. That’s what we got to get to.”

2. Jack Tuttle is expected to start for the Hoosiers, but they could have a change-up in mind.

A transfer from Utah, Tuttle was a four-star recruit in California and a high school teammate of Ohio State’s Chris Olave.

He has thrown for 356 yards and a touchdown this season with three interceptions and is barely completing half his passes (36 for 70).

Donaven McCulley, a true freshman from Indianapolis who was expected to redshirt, is being groomed as the backup now and could have his own package of plays Saturday night.

Also a four-star prospect in high school, McCulley could be a bigger threat to run than Tuttle.

“We have to maximize our roster,” Allen said. “To me he’s one of the guys that can make plays with the ball in his hand. That’s the decision we had to make when Michael got hurt.

“Just got to get him to be able to get out there and play football. Very talented guy.

3. Indiana’s defense is formidable but has two big question marks.

The latter would be standout defensive backs Reese Taylor and Tiawan Mullen.

They are both dealing with injuries, and it remains to be seen if either can play Saturday night.

The news is better in the front seven, where all the starters are seniors.

Linebacker Micah McFadden is one of the best players in the nation, and end Ryder Anderson has received strong marks from Pro Football Focus for his play this season.

The Hoosiers are 37th in the nation in total defense (334.8 yards per game) but just 76th in scoring defense (26.8 points allowed per game).

They rank 20th in the nation in defensive SP+, an advanced metric that combines play-by-play efficiency and big play ability (or ability to prevent big plays).

4. Allen hopes his home crowd will help the Hoosiers against an Ohio State team that plays a lot of young players.

“There’s no question they do have some youth — some very talented youth, mind you — but it is youth,” he said. “Youth is youth. I think you play on the road expecting a big crowd, a loud crowd. The intensity and the energy like we had this past Saturday, like we had at all of our home games, which has been awesome. That plays into that.

“That’s the best part of it. We got to be able to in that moment play our best football. There’s no doubt that’s the objective, that’s the goal. That’s what we’re going to do everything within our power to do that against a team that is very, very talented, has a lot of really good football players, and they’re very well-coached.”

5. Ohio State (5-1) is focused on finishing strong after nearly blowing a big lead against the Hoosiers last season.

The Buckeyes led big at halftime then had to hang on for a 42-35 win last season, something that left a bad taste in the mouths of some members of the team.

“We had a bunch of big plays early on, then at the end we were just kind of hanging on,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “We have to continue to be aggressive. Some of the decision making in that game wasn’t very good, but they have a good defense with good scheme and good players. We will have to be on our game in terms of execution.”

With a potential top 10 showdown with Penn State looming next weekend, could there be a temptation to look ahead?

“I would say that this team should never be looking at anything other than the game ahead of them,” Day said. “We’ve learned that lesson. We understand exactly what’s going on. So, we’re still a work in progress, and we’ve got to bring every week, and we know that, and I think that’s not something that you know we’re not going into this game undefeated. It’s not like that. We have a lot of respect for Indiana, it’s gonna be a hard road game. I mean everybody has big ten has played well this year, and you gotta bring it every week.”


Ohio State at Indiana, 7:30 p.m., ABC, 1410

About the Author