Five storylines to follow in Ohio State’s opener vs. Indiana

Aug 30, 2017
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett practices on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

The Ohio State Buckeyes turned the hype dial to 11 with their trailer, posted to Twitter this week, previewing the season opener against Indiana.

Scenes of the Buckeyes leaving the field after a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl precede clips of players bouncing around in preseason practice and coaches screaming in excitement.

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“What choice will you make today!?” shouts offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.

“It’s time to go win a game!” defensive end Tyquan Lewis says.

EXCITING WEEK: Ohio State releases week one hype video

The No. 2 Buckeyes get their chance at 8 p.m. Thursday in Bloomington, Ind., playing in front of a crowd of 50,000-plus at Memorial Stadium and a national television audience on ESPN, which will bring its College Gameday crew to town. Here are five storylines:

1. Wilson angle: Kevin Wilson resigned as Indiana head coach in December after six seasons. Urban Meyer hired him as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator five weeks later.

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As fate would have it, Wilson will coach his first game with the Buckeyes against his old team. Center Billy Price said Wilson hasn’t let the matchup affect him this week in practice.

“He’s always cheery, always has a lot of energy,” Price said. “He always stands in front of me during stretching and bothers me the whole time. It’s a unique opportunity for him, but it is business. He’s wearing the block O. He’s not wearing the IU. He’s looking forward to putting us in a position to win.”

2. Offense’s look: All eyes will be on Ohio State’s offense. Wilson hopes to turn Ohio State’s passing game around. Quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled in some of the biggest games last season, most notably in the loss to Clemson.

Barrett will start his third season opener with numerous records in sight. Sometime early this season, he will likely pass former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees for most touchdowns produced (passing and rushing) in Big Ten history. Brees was responsible for 106 touchdowns in his career. Barrett has 99.

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Barrett’s improved accuracy and timing with the wide receivers has impressed Meyer.

“To say that he mastered our offense, he’s done that quite a while ago,” Meyer said. “It’s just the timing, the execution and the trust.”

3. Go-to guys: The Buckeyes have better depth at wide receiver but could use one or two players to emerge as the top threats. The depth chart lists six wide receivers as starters: Parris Campbell or K.J. Hill at hybrid back; Austin Mack or Binjimen Victor at one wideout spot; and Johnnie Dixon or Terry McLaurin at the other.

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Only three of those players will find themselves on the field for the first snap. All six expect to get playing time.

“It’s just a matter of everyone doing their part and stepping up,” McLaurin said. “You just want to be part of that six. When you’re part of that six, you know you’re going to get legitimate playing time. Then you want to vie for those touches.”

4. Great expectations: The Hoosiers have played the Buckeyes close twice in Bloomington in the Meyer era, losing 52-49 in 2012 and 34-27 in 2015.

Beating Indiana won’t be enough for Ohio State. To stamp themselves as a national championship contender, the Buckeyes need to dominate games like this. They trailed only No. 1 Alabama in the Associated Press preseason poll.

“I think we should be No. 1,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “It’s like coach Meyer says. If they’re keeping score, we want to be No. 1. We’ve got to play like we’re No. 1. We definitely feel like we’re the No. 1 team.”

5. Unknown quantity: Indiana has a new head coach, Tom Allen, and a new offensive coordinator, Mike DeBord, who spent the last two seasons at Tennessee.

NO SURPRISES: Ohio State releases first depth chart

The Hoosiers have the same quarterback, Richard Lagow, who started in a 38-17 loss in Columbus last season, but will do enough new things to keep the Buckeyes guessing.

“We really watched the film of their spring game for personnel,” Hubbard said, “and then went back to Tennessee (film) to see what their new coordinator likes to do. It’s kind of preparing for everything. We know some of the guys we played against last year. We’re going to be ready for a lot of different things. It comes down to playing fast. That’s what we’re going to do.”