Indiana, No. 2 Ohio St. savor opening night’s glitz, glamour

Published 12:37 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

BLOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — No. 2 Ohio State revels in the glitz and glamour of the big stage.
Nationally televised games, hours-long pregame shows and college football’s circus-like atmosphere have become the norm.
For Indiana, all the pomp and circumstance of this year’s opening night is a whole new world.
“Biggest home opener in the history of our program,” first-year coach Tom Allen said as the Hoosiers turned their attention to Ohio State late last week. “I know I’ve said that many times, but it is what it is. That’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in.”
While the Hoosiers are newcomers to this kind of spotlight, they are leaving nothing to chance.
They worked out underneath the Memorial Stadium lights, to get acclimated to the glare.
They discussed how to stay focused on game day even as their fans clamor for an opportunity to appear on ESPN’s “College GameDay” show, which is making its first trip to Bloomington, Indiana.
They’ve talked about avoiding stage fright, keeping the game in perspective and dealing with the return of former coach Kevin Wilson, now the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator.
And yet, what the Hoosiers really want is a chance to prove this doesn’t have to be a one-off deal.
“We’ve got to be focused and not get too excited ‘til you get to the stadium,” quarterback Richard Lagow said. “You’ve just got to focus on all your mental tasks all day and then, when you get to the stadium, you can start to get ready.”
Allen has wisely left out any historical references.
The daunting numbers show why.
Ohio State has won 22 straight in the series, including a 2010 game that was later vacated. Indiana hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1988.
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, haven’t beaten a Top 25 team on opening weekend since 1968, are 1-9 all-time against ranked teams in Week 1 and are 0-6 against the Top 10 in season openers.
Still, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer also knows how treacherous early season road games can be — as the Buckeyes found out in a Week 2 loss at Virginia Tech three years ago. They rebounded from that early slip up to win the national title.
A repeat in Thursday’s conference opener, as Meyer knows, could doom Ohio State’s title hopes before the second act even begins.
So Meyer will rely on the Buckeyes’ experience to deliver another marquee performance.
“Last year was very alarming because our whole team was new,” he said. “This year is a little more comfort because guys have been in the environment before. This is a whole different set of circumstances because it’s on the road in a Big Ten game. But we’ve practiced as such.”
Here are some other things to watch Thursday night:
Ohio State’s top running back Mike Weber has been slowed by a hamstring injury over the last month, giving true freshman J.K. Dobbins a chance to take the majority of first-team snaps. He’s already No. 2 on the depth chart.
How will the Buckeyes use them?  Meyer said Monday that Weber, who rushed for 1,093 yards last season, was “almost ready” after recently returning to full speed. Even if Dobbins doesn’t start, he’s expected to play a key role.
Indiana has produced four 1,000-yard runners over the last three seasons — and Devine Redding is trying to become the third straight Hoosiers back to make an opening day NFL roster.
But this year, there’s no clear-cut starter and Allen plans to use a handful of backs. Reliable Mike Majette is expected to start, but expect to see Devonte Williams and Cole Gest among others.
The Hoosiers aren’t quite sure whether they’ll be facing Wilson’s offense or Meyer’s offense. Either way, they’ll have to adjust on the fly.
Not surprisingly, Ohio State isn’t dropping hints.
“We’ve done more unscripted plays than we ever have,” Meyer said, referring to practice. “I’ll just throw the ball down second-and-one, third-and-six, on purpose. They can’t look off a sheet. They have to call plays. Done a very nice job.”
Indiana’s defense revolves around linebacker Tegray Scales and cornerback Rashard Fant.
Scales, a senior from Cincinnati, led the nation in tackles for loss (23 1/2) last season and finished with 93 tackles. Fant, a fifth -year senior, is the Football Bowl Subdivision’s active leader with 48 passes defenses defensed and 44 pass breakups in 38 career games. Both need to play well for the Hoosiers to achieve their goal of being a Top 25 defense this year.
Former Hoosiers coach Lee Corso, who is better known for using mascot heads to pick teams on “GameDay,” will be honored with the Bill Orwig Award at the end of the first quarter. The award honors non-alums who have made outstanding contributions to Indiana.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — No. 2 Ohio State (11-2, 8-1 Big Ten in 2016) at Indiana (6-7, 4-5 in 2015), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Ohio State by 20 1/2.
Series Record: Ohio State leads 73-12-5.
Three years ago, Ohio State overcame an early-season road loss to win the national championship. A slip up this time would be much more damaging for the defending Big Ten East Division co-champs, who are seeking more than just another appearance in the conference championship game. Indiana hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1988. A win in what is being billed as the biggest home opener in school history could signal big changes are on the way under first-year coach Tom Allen.
Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins vs. Indiana’s run defense. Weber ran for 1,093 yards last season but has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Dobbins has impressed as a true freshman and is already No. 2 on the Buckeyes depth chart. Together, they pose a huge challenge for Indiana’s defense. But if the Hoosiers have any chance to pull an upset, the run defense must be at least as stout as  it was last season (3.8 yards per carry).
Ohio State: QB J.T. Barrett. A year ago, he struggled with accuracy. Earlier this month, Meyer called that facet Barrett’s biggest offseason improvement. It’s a big deal. The Buckeyes need their senior quarterback to round into form and play like the conference’s two-time quarterback of the year.
Indiana: LB Tegray Scales and CB Rashard Fant. Scales led the nation in 2016 with 23 1/2 tackles for loss. Fant enters this season as the active leader in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passes defensed (48) and pass breakups (44).  Together, they’re hoping to anchor a Top 25 defense.
Thursday’s game marks the first time since 1996 that a conference game has been played on opening weekend. … Ohio State last opened the season with a league game on the road in 1975. … Indiana has won 14 of its last 15 home openers but is 1-9 all-time against ranked teams in Week 1. … Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer is 15-0 in season openers. The Buckeyes are 12-0 when facing a league opponent in Week 1. … Allen took over after Kevin Wilson resigned last December. Wilson is now the Buckeyes offensive coordinator. … Ohio State has won 22 straight in the series, including the 2010 game that was later vacated. … Ohio State has won 22 of its last 23 road games. … Barrett needs six touchdowns to tie Drew Brees’ conference record for most TDs responsible for (106).

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