Hoosiers follow upset of Spartans with even bigger challenge: Buckeyes

BY foxsports • October 5, 2016

The numbers are pure fantasy.

Four games into the season, second-ranked Ohio State is 4-0 and has looked absolutely dominant.

View from the sidelines: College football cheerleaders 2016.

The Buckeyes (1-0 Big Ten) are averaging 57.0 points per game (third in the nation). Their 228 points are a school record for the first four games in a season.

Ohio State is averaging 332 yards per game on the ground (third best in the nation) after churning out 410 yards last week in a 58-0 rout at home against Rutgers.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett is the catalyst for the prolific offense. The Heisman Trophy candidate threw four touchdown passes last Saturday and set an Ohio State record with 59 for his career in only 2 1/2 years as a starter.

Barrett is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has 14 touchdown passes and also three rushing touchdowns already this year. That's more than enough to draw the attention of offensive-minded Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, whose team comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday.

"I think one of the premier players in college football is J.T. Barrett," Wilson said.

Ohio State freshman running back Mike Weber is averaging a Big Ten-best 123.8 yards rushing per game in his first year as the starter after replacing current Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Weber powered for a career-best 144 yards against Rutgers.

The defense is just as good -- and maybe even better, though that's hard to believe.

Ohio State ranks No. 1 nationally in scoring defense at 9.3 points per game and No. 3 in total defense. Last week, Rutgers managed just 116 total yards (33 passing) and was completely overmatched.

The defense has not allowed a rushing touchdown -- the only team in the nation to stake that claim -- and has returned four interceptions for touchdowns. A plus-eight turnover margin (nine interceptions, two fumble recoveries) puts the Buckeyes at No. 2 among FBS teams in that category.

Coach Urban Meyer points to the defense and Barrett as the driving forces behind the Buckeyes' hot start this year. He named the entire defense as the player of the game against Rutgers.

"You know, any time you have great defense, that's -- just the way the game of football is, you have great defense, things are going to get usually rolling for you at some point," Meyer said. "Even if you struggle a little bit.

"Then the fact that you have J.T. Barrett running the show, it's pretty smooth. Even when he makes a mistake it's usually not an awful one and we can rally right back up. But it starts with defense."

Let's just say Meyer is able to grin and Barrett this year when his offense is on the field.

Barrett's 84 touchdowns responsible for (rushing and passing) are five away from the school record set by Braxton Miller. Since the 2014 season, Barrett is tied with Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in that category at the FBS level, with four more than heralded Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"It's just a great honor," Barrett said of the school record for touchdown passes. "The tradition here at Ohio State is so rich. It's just in everything we do. Despite everything I've been through it feels surreal. That's crazy that I was just trying to do my part and do my best for the team and then broke the record. I'm truly grateful for it."

Next for Ohio State is a second straight Big Ten home game against Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers (3-1, 1-0) are coming off the biggest win in Wilson's six seasons after upending Michigan State 24-21 in overtime last Saturday.

But the Buckeyes are an infinitely bigger challenge this week for the up-and-coming Hoosiers, especially on the road. Indiana's last win at Ohio State came in 1987.

The Hoosiers do have some momentum, having won three straight Big Ten games, stretching back to last year, for the first time since 1993. They lead the Big Ten in passing offense (320.8 yards per game) and rank second in total offense (496.8) behind the Buckeyes.

But Wilson respects what Ohio State has accomplished so far.

"They got players, got a great program, and they're playing about as good as anybody in college ball right now," Wilson said. "They're first basically in every offensive and defensive stat in the conference."

Meyer's teams have never lost to Indiana, but several matchups have been close, including last year's 34-27 victory.

"For four years in a row it's been swing as hard as you can," Meyer said. "This is by far their best team. ... Their game Saturday (against Michigan State), that was a great win for that program."


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