The Indiana Hoosiers are used to going against Ohio State when the Buckeyes are highly ranked. It will be different at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday.
This time, for the first time in program history, the No. 9 Hoosiers (4-0 Big Ten) will participate in a regular-season, top-10 matchup when they play No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) with first place at stake in the East Division.
Indiana has its highest ranking since it was No. 4 on Nov. 27, 1967.
"We are not focused on the hype or the rankings. We are just trying to control what we can control," Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said. "We need to go out and play Indiana football, tough, physical football, and that is what we are going to do each and every week."
While Indiana was winning 24-0 at Michigan State on Saturday, the Buckeyes held a practice because their game at Maryland was canceled following a COVID-19 outbreak in the Terrapins' program.
"Indiana had an opportunity to play and now they played for four straight weeks and they got a little bit of rhythm going," Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. "We didn't. When you miss out on preseason, you miss out on the spring, it certainly hurts when you're not playing games."
Ohio State will rely on quarterback Justin Fields. The Heisman Trophy hopeful has completed 86.8 percent of his 83 pass attempts for 908 yards and has the same number of touchdowns as incompletions: 11. He has not thrown an interception.
It will be a classic showdown against a Hoosiers defense that is tied for seventh nationally with 10 interceptions, which leads the Big Ten. Jaylin Williams has three of those interceptions and Tiawan Mullen has two.
"I think their ability to play all four quarters really stood out to me," Ohio State defensive end Tyler Friday said. "Indiana, every year, every week is getting better. Their record speaks for itself."
Ohio State's inexperienced secondary will be tested by Penix, who is 9-1 in his past 10 starts. His favorite target is Ty Fryfogle, who had 11 catches for 200 yards and two TDs vs. Michigan State.
The Hoosiers, who are 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1987, have not defeated Ohio State since 1988, excluding the Buckeyes' vacated win in 2010. Since a tie in 1990, Indiana has lost 25 straight in the series, including 51-10 at home last season when an injured Penix did not play.
The past doesn't matter to the Hoosiers, whose 38-21 win vs. Michigan on Nov. 7 ended a 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines.
Indiana coach Tom Allen is enjoying the accolades but doesn't want it to overwhelm his players.
"To me that is the key," he said. "We need to learn how to handle that and manage that if we want to be a top-10 football program."
--Field Level Media