Past road flops make OSU fans nervous

By Jim Naveau

The last two football seasons have conditioned Ohio State fans to expect the unexpected when the Buckeyes play on the road against a team they’re expected to beat.

First there was a 55-24 loss to Iowa in Iowa City two years ago when OSU was a big favorite. Then last year brought a 49-20 loss at Purdue when the Buckeyes were again a heavy favorite.

So, with No. 5 Ohio State (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) heading to Indiana (2-0, 0-0) today for its first road game of the season, those two stunning results have been mentioned more than a few times this week.

Never mind that Ohio State has won 23 games in a row against the Hoosiers and hasn’t lost to them since 1988. Ohio State fans are determined to be nervous and nobody is going to talk them out if it.

I’m certainly not going to attempt it. Not after I predicted OSU to beat Purdue by 14 points last season and thought the Buckeyes looked like a 17-point favorite over Iowa in 2017.

Ohio State’s two wins this season have been over Florida Atlantic 45-21 and 42-0 over Cincinnati in a game many people thought might be closer.

Indiana opened with a 34-24 win over Ball State, a team picked to finish fifth in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference. Then the Hoosiers had a dominant 52-0 win over Eastern Illinois, which was predicted to finish seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Indiana might be the toughest place in the Big Ten to build or rebuild a football program. Schools like Wisconsin, Iowa and even Northwestern have made themselves into perennial contenders. But Indiana has continued to lag behind.

The Hoosiers have played in one Rose Bowl and 11 bowl games overall. Ohio State has played in 15 Rose Bowls and has been to 11 bowl games in the last 12 seasons.

Indiana certainly has made a financial commitment to try to be more competitive. After a second consecutive 5-7 season last year, IU brought in a new defensive coordinator, Seth Littrell, and gave him a contract for $1.7 million a year. New offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer will be working for $800,000 a year.

DeBoer has some talented players to work with on offense, like quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. and Peyton Ramsey, running back Stevie Scott and a solid group of receivers. There are fewer standouts on defense for the Hoosiers, though.

Unless something weird happens, it should be another win for Ohio State over Indiana.

The prediction: Ohio State 35, Indiana 17

By Jim Naveau