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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey will be starting in front of more than 100,000 amped-up people at the Horseshoe on Saturday, more than three times the size of the crowd he saw last week at Rutgers.

Thursday, October 04, 2018 1:00 am

Hoosiers look a bit different this year

Ben Portnoy | For The Journal Gazette

Indiana at Ohio State

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

TV: Fox

Radio: 1250 AM

The lights shone brightly at Indiana's Memorial Stadium as ESPN's College Gameday crew of Reece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso looked on from the south end zone in August of 2017.

Fresh off a berth in the Foster Farms Bowl, Indiana sought a program-defining victory in a Friday night season kickoff against Ohio State that head coach Tom Allen anointed the “biggest home opener in the history of our program.”

Despite the fanfare, the Buckeyes took care of business, throttling the Hoosiers 49-21 thanks in part to J.K. Dobbins' 181 rushing yards. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett racked up 304 yards and three touchdowns.

For Indiana, redshirt senior quarterback Richard Lagow lived up to his billing as a gunslinger, finishing 40 for 65 – a school record for attempts – 410 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.

Saturday, the Buckeyes and Hoosiers renew their series at the Horseshoe in Columbus. And for all the passing fireworks that onlookers saw from Lagow last year, Indiana's gameplan stands to be vastly different in 2018.

Whereas Lagow stood 6-foot-6 and weighed 240 pounds, redshirt sophomore starter Peyton Ramsey is a slight 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.

Ramsey is also far less the strong-armed rocket launcher that Lagow was. Over the first five games, the Cincinnati native is averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt. That ranks 11th in the Big Ten and 97th nationally.

Further, Ramsey has completed just one pass over 33 yards – a 65-yard slant that sophomore receiver Whop Philyor scored on against Michigan State.

“I think as the weeks have gone on, I think I've gotten better,” Ramsey said. “I think I've got more confident and just taking what the defense has been giving me.”

As for the run game, which features a veteran offensive line – albeit one that hasn't performed to its expected level – and a bruising freshman tailback in Stevie Scott, the Hoosiers should outgain the 24 yards that Morgan Ellison managed in the last meeting.

Equally noteworthy, Ohio State doesn't boast the defensive line it did a year ago, as Tracy Sprinkle, Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis are now in the NFL. Factor in the injury to potential No. 1 overall pick Nick Bosa, and the Hoosiers stand to be better on the ground.

“We're going to need a whole bunch of guys to step up and help us make plays in order to come out on top,” Ramsey said.

Offense aside, defense is where Indiana will face its stiffest test. Last year, senior linebackers Tegray Scales and Chris Covington held Barrett and Dobbins in check for most of the first three quarters before the Buckeyes railed off 28 straight points.

But with Scales and Covington graduated, and given the Buckeyes' propensity to ram their two-headed, ground attack of Dobbins and junior Mike Webber down the throats of defenses, the Hoosiers defensive line will be tested.

Beyond the run game, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins presents a challenge. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Haskins is a gifted athlete who can spread defenses with his arm and feet. Though he's just a sophomore, Haskins is completing 70.8 percent of his passes and has 19 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

“He's proven he's a big-time player and is a guy we have to have some answers for,” Allen said. “But it will be a tremendous challenge to keep him from being as effective as he's been, but that's what we've got to do.”