Despite a somewhat bumpy journey, Ohio State emerged from its four-game nonconference schedule with its No. 1 ranking in tow.
Now as the team shifts gears to its more familiar foes of the Big Ten, senior linebacker Joshua Perry said he and other veterans on the team are trying to turn the intensity up a notch.
“We take everything that we do around here seriously, but we’re getting in guys’ heads that this is Big Ten season, this is where we have to start to achieve all of our goals for the year,” Perry said. “We have to go through the Big Ten, we have to play really well. We know that we’re going to face some really good matchups.”
The first of eight games on OSU’s Big Ten regular-season docket is a trip to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on an Indiana Hoosiers team that comes into the game with a matching 4-0 record.
The Hoosiers are led by senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who ranks 16th in the country with 1,143 passing yards through four games, including seven touchdowns and just one interception.
“He’s a really good player. He makes those guys go,” Perry said. “He’s a great leader.”
The Hoosier offense is also bolstered by junior running back Jordan Howard. The UAB transfer has rushed for at least 145 yards in each game this season, making him the top rusher in the nation by 34 yards.
“It’s always good to have a challenge,” sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan said. “We never want to go into a game where we just know we’re going to dominate somebody physically, because when you just know you’re going to dominate someone you get lackadaisical in practice, don’t really prepare like you should.”
It has been 27 years since the Hoosiers last topped the Buckeyes — a 41-7 romp in Bloomington in 1988. Still, Perry said the Buckeyes have a lot of respect for Indiana, which always makes them work for the victory.
“They’re solid. They come out with something, they give it their all every time they play us … I know that their defense does some things too that can give offense some trouble. They just come out ready to go,” Perry said.
Kickoff between the Buckeyes and Hoosiers is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Last year’s meeting
The 2014 edition of the OSU vs. Indiana game turned out to be a much more dicey affair than many were expecting.
Coming off big victories on the road over a pair of ranked teams in Michigan State and Minnesota, the Buckeyes seemed to have hit their stride approaching postseason play.
However, the game against a Hoosier team 0-6 in conference play at the time turned into a scare for OSU, as a quick 14-0 lead slipped away to 14-13 at the half. Then, midway through the third quarter, the Hoosiers took a 20-14 lead.
Enter then-redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall, who put the team on his back from that point. The H-back returned a punt 54 yards late in the third quarter to put OSU back on top, then pulled in touchdown grabs of six, 15 and 54 yards in the fourth to help the Buckeyes pull away to a 42-27 victory.
Battle of the undefeateds
Indiana’s record of 4-0 marks the latest in the season it has been undefeated since 1990, when — like this year — it hosted OSU in Week 5.
The Hoosiers did not win that game over the 2-2 Buckeyes, but they remained undefeated — with a 27-27 tie.
Indiana ended up losing five of its final seven games to finish the 1990 season 6-5-1.
No ors about it
During each of the first four weeks of the season, the OSU depth chart released the Tuesday before each game featured an “or” in the starting quarterback spot.
Meyer had not committed publicly to starting either redshirt junior Cardale Jones or redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett in each of the first three games, though Jones started each one.
The coach changed that on Sept. 23 by officially announcing Jones would start against Western Michigan several days prior to the game, though the depth chart had already been released the day before with an “or.”
Now for the Week 5 tilt, Jones is cemented as the signal caller for his eighth consecutive start for the Scarlet and Gray.
On the depth chart, only one “or” appears for a starting role: the placekicker spot between redshirt senior Jack Willoughby and sophomore Sean Nuernberger. The two have been in competition each week of the season, though Willoughby has earned the duties for every kick so far.
After their trip to Bloomington, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return home to take on Maryland on Oct. 10. Kickoff is set for noon at Ohio Stadium.