COLUMBUS – You have to admire the optimism of Indiana football season ticket holders.
Or maybe it’s their loyalty that stands out. It could be their stubbornness.
It’s easy to check the renewal box year after year on a season ticket application at a place like Ohio State where not just success, but excellence, is the expectation every season.
But it’s different at Indiana.
The Hoosiers football program could be called the Chicago Cubs of the Big Ten except the Cubs win more often. Since 1950, the Cubs have had 20 winning seasons. Indiana has 13 winning seasons in that same time frame, the fewest by any Big Ten football program.
No. 1 Ohio State (4-0) will play the Hoosiers (4-0) in the Big Ten opener for both teams today at Memorial Stadium. With the help of around 20,000 OSU fans who will make the drive to Bloomington, it will be a sellout or close to it.
Interestingly, the last time OSU played there the Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer saw someone quit. And it wasn’t Indiana’s fan base. This is strictly my observation, but the two times Meyer has appeared the most annoyed about a game in his post-game press conference were after the loss to Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten championship game and after a 52-49 win at Indiana in 2012.
In 2012, Ohio State led 52-34 with just over two minutes to play before a touchdown pass, an onside kick, another touchdown pass and a two-point conversion cut the lead to three points. It wasn’t until Corey Brown recovered an onside kick with just over a minute to play that OSU was safe.
“That was one of the few times I’ve ever seen a defense quit playing hard and that was a problem. That was a program changer. Mistakes are one thing, but when I saw what I saw, that was not a good moment,” Meyer said earlier this week. “That was a game changer. If you don’t play hard, you’re not going to play.”
Playing hard shouldn’t be a problem today. Playing defense could be the key to whether Ohio State wins comfortably or gets anything resembling a scare.
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who didn’t play last season when OSU beat Indiana 42-27, was the quarterback when the Hoosiers came close to the Buckeyes in 2012. He and running back Jordan Howard, who averages 169 yards a game, lead an Indiana offense which averages 38 points a game.
Defensively, though, Indiana allows 32 points a game and suspended one of its best defensive linemen, Darius Latham, earlier this week.
Ohio State has won 20 games in a row against Indiana since the Hoosiers won back-to-back years in 1987 and 1988. The Buckeyes have won 44 of the last 47 times the two teams have played.
There’s always a chance those very patient Indiana fans will see a Big Ten championship or even an upset of Ohio State someday. But not this time.
The prediction: Ohio State 42, Indiana 17.