Coming off of their big win against then number 17 Michigan State, Indiana heads into Columbus for an even tougher test. Indiana takes on the number 2 team in the nation in Ohio State at 3:30 p.m. today. Earlier this week I spoke with Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch to see how the Hoosiers could try and pull off a second straight upset.
David Sugarman: How much do you think Ohio State took notice of IU’s win last week against Michigan State and do you think they’re taking Indiana any more seriously because of it?
Tim May: Yes and yes. Next question. No, but Urban Meyer said that and I can tell everybody, this is a team (Indiana) that was throwing into the end zone against a number one ranked Ohio State last year in Bloomington with a chance to tie the game and Eli Apple knocked the ball away in the end zone or who knows what would’ve happened. Zander Diamont had things going and they were going to take Indiana seriously no matter what happened against Michigan State last week. But past that, if you’re going to ask me how good I think this Indiana team is, I wrote earlier in the week they’re no longer I-n-i-a-n-a because they found their D. What the defense did, in overtime especially, the way they got after Tyler O’Connor and the Michigan State offense, I thought it was the defense that basically won that game for them. They gave up that late drive to tie it, but stuff happens sometimes when teams are desperate. But past the biggest difference is it looks like Indiana can play some defense now when it has to. With that said I thought they played defense pretty well against Ohio State last year. Ezekiel Elliott just had a game for the ages where he went 55, 65 and 75 yards for touchdowns things that we’ll never see again in our lifetime. That kind of saved the day for Ohio State. Yes, to answer your question yes Ohio State is taking Indiana seriously. Urban Meyer believes he had his team’s full attention this week.
DS: As great as Ohio State is does it hurt them at all having not been tested in a really close game yet this season?
TM: Well there’s two ways of looking at that. They went to Oklahoma and they were slight favorite, I think by two points and they won by 21. So were they tested by Oklahoma? It’s easy to say that a team hasn’t played in a tight game yet and you don’t know how they’re going to react to that situation. So yeah you can definitely say that. The flipside of it is they went into a hostile environment, Oklahoma had its largest crowd ever at Owen Field at Memorial Stadium and Ohio State won by 21 on national television at night after a 90-minute rain and lightning delay before the start of the game. So it depends on what your definition of testing is.
DS: Fair enough. Now we all know some of the big names like J.T. Barrett, can you give me one player on each side of the ball that Indiana fans probably don’t know, but definitely should?
TM: Well I wrote a story about Isaiah Prince, it’s in our Gameday Plus section and you can see it at dispatch.com. Isaiah Prince our right tackle has really come into his own the last couple of games. He’s one of the three new starters on the offensive line. That’s made a big difference for Ohio State. Then defensively I got a story this week on Robert Landers a defensive tackle who has given them some quality, adequate depth in the defensive line position. They’ve had to play eight to ten defensive lineman and they just keep rolling fresh guys in there. He leads the team in tackles for loss so when he goes in there there’s not really a drop off and he really gives them a little bit of torque down there right in the A gap. He’s a 6-1 and 290 pound guy, very strong and those are two guys to keep your eye on. And I keep reminding people I think the difference in this defense that’s allowed it to play as well as it has so far has been the rise of Marshon Lattimore at the cornerback position vacated by Eli Apple who was the 10th player taken in the NFL Draft this past year. Two great cornerbacks, Lattimore and Gareon Conley, allow the defense to play with a nine-man look at the rest of your offense and so far he (Lattimore) has played extremely well. Those are a few guys to keep your eye on.
DS: Every team has got a weakness. As good as Ohio State is, what do you think the chink in their armor is that Indiana needs to try and expose?
TM: Well everybody thought it was going to be the run defense. And they gave up around 170 rushing yards to Oklahoma. Oklahoma has two outstanding backs in Samaje Perine, the single game FBS record holder for rushing yards, and Joe Mixon and I think they both combined for like 136 yards, which wasn’t very good. Then on top of that Ohio State gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Joe Mixon. So if there’s anything they’ve got straightened out for sure last week it was the in essence, stuffing Rutgers on kickoff coverage and so they kind of figured that out. Right now it’s really hard to point your finger at something a team could continually take advantage of so I don’t really know where to answer that question. They’ve only given up two touchdowns on defense; they’ve only given up four touchdowns total. They average 57 points a game, which leads the Big Ten, which is second in the country. They’re averaging right around 580 yards in total offense, which is fifth in the country. Defensively they’re number one in the nation in scoring defense and number one in pass defense efficiency. They’re also number one in defense in their red zone. So I’m not sure where you point the finger at the moment.
DS: So it’s safe to say they’re pretty good?
TM: Yeah that’s safe to say. As I wrote in my prediction, Urban Meyer very much respects Kevin Wilson and the job he does, especially on offense. He’s always thought that he’s one of those guys out there that’s kind of pushing the envelope and he’s a good space maker for his playmakers. As I said earlier this week, they got more wheel routes on that offense then a Nascar team. The point I made was I think this might be the best overall Indiana team, although offensively I don’t think it’s as good as last year. But this may be the best overall Indiana team in the four years Urban Meyer has been here, but this is probably Urban Meyer’s best Ohio State team. So put those two against each other and what do you come out with? I guess we’re going to find out.
DS: So how’s this one going to play out, what’s your prediction for the game?
TM: Well I’m picking Ohio State 45-13. I do respect what Indiana does on offense, Mitchell Paige is an interesting character and I like the way Lagow plays. He looks like he’s pretty tough. But I just think Ohio State will prevail 45-13 especially in Ohio Stadium. Those clashes haven’t been as close at Ohio Stadium as they’ve been at Memorial Stadium over in Bloomington.
You can follow Tim on twitter @TIM_MAYsports and read his work at http://www.dispatch.com.
You can follow David on twitter @David_Sugarman2 and on Instagram @david_sugarman