January 09, 2015

There is a new, giddy feeling for unbeaten Indiana early this season. For Ohio State, it's same old, same old.

The Hoosiers look to improve to 5-0 for the first time in 48 years on Saturday as the top-ranked Buckeyes try to extend the nation's longest road winning streak in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

The last time Indiana (4-0) and Ohio State (4-0) met with unbeaten records was Oct. 3, 1942, when each was 1-0. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes also opened the 1954 season against each other.

A 31-24 win over Wake Forest last Saturday gave the Hoosiers wins in their first four games for the first time since 1990, and they are on the verge of 5-0 for the first time since 1967. Of course, that would take beating Ohio State for the first time in 20 tries since 1988.

"They're the best team in the country," freshman receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. told the Hoosiers' official website. "You can't hide that."

You also can't ignore a pair of streaks that lead the nation for the defending national champions. The Buckeyes have won 14 straight road games and 16 in a row overall. Add to that a Big Ten-record 24 consecutive conference wins, and 5-0 looks further away for Indiana.

But high expectations lead to tough grading for Ohio State. The defense has been sparkling, allowing 49 combined points, but an offense that scored 84 in two College Football Playoff games last year has not displayed the same firepower.

Quarterback Cardale Jones has been inconsistent, and after his benching in a 20-13 win over Northern Illinois, he started last Saturday but was again up and down in a 38-12 victory over Western Michigan.

He finished 19 of 33 for 288 yards with two touchdown passes, but he completed just 6 of 14 passes in the second half with an interception. Jones, who also had a fumble which the Buckeyes recovered, ran 10 times for 32 yards and has been limited to 48 on the ground after getting 99 in the season opener.

''Overall, I thought Cardale played okay,'' coach Urban Meyer said. ''I still give him the okay because we have high expectations.''

Under-thrown passes irked Meyer, but he said that type of issue is fixable.

"If you are not executing down-the-field throws because your guys can't get open, that's a major problem," he told the team's official website. "That's a recruiting error, an effort error, something, and that wasn't the problem... it's just a matter of execution."

Unlike Jones, Ezekiel Elliott has continued his tear from late last season when he closed with three straight games of at least 200 yards rushing. The junior has now posted nine consecutive 100-yard games and is third in the Big Ten with 113.8 per game.

The player at the top of that list is Indiana junior Jordan Howard, the nation's leading rusher with 675 yards.

Howard is the Big Ten's co-offensive player of the week after rushing for 168 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest. The transfer from UAB became the only FBS player in the last 20 seasons to rush for at least 140 yards in each of his first four games with a team.

"(Being named Big Ten player of the week) means a lot to me, but I guess it means a lot to the team because it shows we're doing something well," Howard said.

Ohio State will be Howard's biggest test. The Buckeyes have held opponents to averages of 12.2 points and 253.3 yards - both among the top 10 in the FBS - and join Missouri as the only Power Five conference teams not to allow a rush of more than 20 yards.

However, after giving up averages of 106.0 rushing yards and 2.6 per attempt through three games, the Ohio State run defense appeared vulnerable last week. That unit allowed 169 yards to a Western Michigan team which totaled 43 rushing yards against its previous two FBS opponents.

The Hoosiers will likely be without one of their top interior defensive linemen in tackle Darius Latham, who has been suspended for the second time this season. The school did not provide additional details about what led to the suspension but the indefinite suspension begins immediately.

Latham has 10 tackles in three games and leads the team with five tackles for loss. The junior is tied for second in sacks with two.

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