COLUMBUS — The unexpected off-week didn’t sit well with Ohio State.
The Buckeyes were angry when their game against Maryland was canceled. It provided one fewer chance to prove they are the best team in the country, and it was an off-date when they didn’t expect it, throwing off the routine that is so important to the program.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day isn’t thrilled that Indiana has four games played compared to the Buckeyes only having three. But Day was also in no mood for excuses as the Buckeyes enter the biggest matchup of the season.
“The hard part is that Indiana had an opportunity to play, and now they’ve played four straight weeks,” Day said Tuesday. “They have a little bit of a rhythm going. And we didn’t. When you miss out on preseason, you miss out on spring, it certainly hurts when you’re not playing games. We wanted to play, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do that.
“So we tried to do the best we can here in-house to replicate games. Everything we did in practice was game-reps, try to replicate it the best we could. It’s been a challenge.”
The disgruntled Buckeyes didn’t have a chance to suit up and play Maryland on Saturday, so instead, they hit the practice field to squeeze in early preparations for the top-10 showdown against Indiana.
Instead of moping around about a lost game on the schedule, Ohio State put it in the rearview mirror and focused on the Hoosiers. That’s all the Buckeyes could do this weekend.
“We knew going into this that something like this may happen,” Day said. “We’ve seen it across the country. We’re not the only ones. Like we said and like I said, nobody feels bad for us. So we’ve got to move on and that’s what they did.”
Now that preparations for Indiana are well underway, Day and the Buckeyes took time to talk to the media Tuesday afternoon, and Lettermen Row is breaking down What We Learned from those conversations.
Thayer Munford is ’20 times better’ than last year
Thayer Munford is the first to admit he struggled through last season at left tackle. The senior offensive lineman dealt with injuries throughout the season that hampered his ability to play at the highest level possible. But healthy now, Munford feels — and plays — like a different player from a year ago.
“Compared to last year? Like 20 times better,” Munford said when he was asked how much better he felt. “A lot more quicker, a lot more physical. I just feel more confident in my body as a whole. Personally, I’m not even there yet. I’m not even at my peak.”
Munford has yet to give up a sack this season, and the Ohio State tackles have only given up one quarterback pressure all year through three games. Munford is healthier than ever and playing at an incredibly high level.
Buckeyes ready to be tested by Michael Penix
Indiana is off to its best start of the century at 4-0, and starting quarterback Michael Penix is a big part of that. The Hoosiers signal-caller has been electrifying through four games and can make plays any way he needs to.
Ohio State is preparing to face the best quarterback it has seen all year.
“His confidence,” Josh Proctor said when asked what stands out about Penix. “He’s a great player. He has a strong arm. He has a really great receiving corps. We know they’re going to try attacking us downfield and they’re going to challenge us this week, so we just have to be ready.”
The Buckeyes secondary struggled when it faced Penn State, and Indiana seems to have similar skill talent. Proctor and the Buckeyes back end will have their hands full trying to stop the Hoosiers in the air, especially if Penix continues to play as well as he has so far.
Harry Miller, Buckeyes offensive line still growing
When Ohio State was blowing out Rutgers in the first half of the Nov. 7 game, the Buckeyes still weren’t clicking in every facet.
The Buckeyes offensive line still hasn’t played to the level it wants to this season, and that is largely in the middle, where Josh Myers is joined by All-American guard Wyatt Davis and first-year starter Harry Miller, who was called for three holding penalties in that first half.
If those issues are going to be solved, the Buckeyes have to gel better up front to help the first-time starter Miller out. That starts with keeping Miller composed.
“There have been times where we have not been quite so gelled together,” Buckeyes center Josh Myers said. “A couple of things have happened. And those are things that we are working to eliminate. We’ll be just fine. We know what we have to work on, and we’ve been working on those things and just talking through it. A big part of it is when the game does come, just relaxing and understanding what we’ve done to get to where we are and making sure we don’t get too anxious and want to try to kill somebody, want to try to do too much. Just calming down and doing our job. That’s a big part of it.”
As they play through the season, the Buckeyes will only come together better as an offensive line, and Miller will continue to get better up front. And the offense as a whole will be better because of that.
Ohio State defensive line ready to ramp up pressure
Ohio State doesn’t have a Chase Young-like defensive end in its defensive line room this season who can wreck an entire game plan on his own. But the Buckeyes do have a deep, experienced crop of defensive ends that have a huge job to do this week.
The Buckeyes have made good use of rotating defensive ends to stay fresh, and they’ll need that this week against Penix. The biggest goal? Create pressure, of course.
“We just have to make sure he’s uncomfortable,” Tyler Friday said. “I think he’s at his best when he’s comfortable, he has his feet under him. He’s also a bigger quarterback. When he drops back, his ability to see over the line, you can’t let him get comfortable back there. I think our whole goal is to get him off his spot and get the ball out of his hands.”
If the Buckeyes can make Penix’s life miserable in the pocket, the Indiana offense will struggle to move the ball. And the Buckeyes have plenty of ability to do just that.