INDIANAPOLIS — Urban Meyer may not know the brutal details of all those previous Ohio State-Indiana games.
Really, there’s no need to.
With a first-year coach at Ohio State, a second-year coach at Indiana and new-school approaches in both places, there will be a new evolution to this series Saturday night.
“Everybody’s trying to get an advantage and this (hurry-up offense) is an advantage if you know what you’re doing,” said Meyer, the Buckeyes coach. “I have a coaching staff, a guy that’s done that a lot. I didn’t have a big background in that hurry-up. We ran the spread, but we were not a hurry-up team, so this hurry-up is kind of new to me.”
The goal, of course, is to run more plays than the other team and score points by the dozens.
But there are risks in going too fast.
If the offense doesn’t pick up first downs, defenses can spend far too much time on the field — as Indiana (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) has sometimes learned the hard way. Players get weary.
Indiana and Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) seem to have it at least partially figured out how to make it all work.
Both are scoring more than 32 points per game, and while the Buckeyes have the conference’s No. 2 rushing offense (248.7 yards), the Hoosiers have the league’s top passing offense (305.2). The contrasting styles should make for an interesting night.
“I have no control over how many points they score and how our defense does, but every single time I go out on the field, our goal is to score a touchdown,” Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman said. “Just like any game we play, no matter what offense we’re playing, we’re going to try to score as much as we can. That’s still the goal this week.”
On paper, there’s little doubt about which team has the edge.
The Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team, its only unbeaten team and can lean on Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller to bail them out of all kinds of trouble.
Ohio State’s fans have traditionally outnumbered Indiana’s, even in Bloomington’s Memorial Stadium where Saturday’s game will be played, and the tale of the tape explains why. In what has been one of the Midwest’s most lopsided series, the Buckeyes have won 17 straight over the Hoosiers and are 48-2-2 against Indiana since 1952. Ohio State’s average victory margin over that span: 22.7 points.
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, have lost 10 straight conference games and 20 straight league games against teams outside of Indiana, dating to a win over Illinois in the middle of the 2009 season.
Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson insists his players are making progress and believes last week’s 31-27 loss to Michigan State proves it.
“We’re learning how to attack. We’re learning how to play Big Ten football,” he said. “If you keep doing that, good things are going to happen. That was the first time in my time here where there was a good team that we went after and played good football, had a shot against and didn’t get it done. Let’s learn, let’s grow, but let’s keep coming. It’s not about getting close, it’s not about doing our best and being short.”
It’s about winning, something the Hoosiers haven’t done since their Sept. 8 trip to Massachusetts.
The Buckeyes hung 63 points on Nebraska last week and Miller has been nothing short of sensational. He’s averaging 303.8 yards in total offense per game, 23rd in the nation, is 11th nationally in rushing (127.2 yards) though he’s still learning how to run Meyer’s offense more efficiently.
Ohio State also must fill the void left by linebacker Etienne Sabino, who is expected to miss at least three weeks with a cracked bone in his leg.
Losing anybody on defense in a game like this could create a major hole, given the tempo and the lack of chances to substitute.
History says the Buckeyes can probably overcome the loss of Sabino on Saturday. But Meyer warns past performances don’t guarantee future results, even as Buckeyes fans openly contemplate the possibility of 10-0 with four straight unranked opponents on the schedule — including Indiana.
“I’ve heard Indiana has a good offense, Indiana has a really good defense and has a lot of good players on defense,” Ohio State center Corey Linsley said. “We’re not thinking about four unranked opportunities in a row. We’re thinking about four Big Ten defenses that we have to go out there and play against. I don’t think it’s entering anybody’s mind that these are easy teams because they’re unranked. They’re all Big Ten players.”