COLUMBUS — The last time Indiana beat Ohio State on the football field was in 1988 when a very good IU team routed John Cooper’s first OSU team 41-7.
In 1988, Urban Meyer was an assistant coach at Illinois State.
The Big Ten had 10 teams then. The Big Twelve was the Big Eight.
J.T. Barrett wouldn’t be born until seven years later.
Tiger Woods was 12 years and wouldn’t win his first PGA Tour tournament until eight years later.
Duke had not yet won an NCAA championship in men’s basketball.
Michael Jordan had not won an NBA championship.
Barack Obama had just enrolled in law school at Harvard.
And in maybe the best measure of how long ago that was, the Cleveland Browns were on their way to the playoffs for a fourth straight year and had come within The Drive and The Fumble of going to the Super Bowl in the two years just before 1988.
The Hoosiers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) will come to Ohio Stadium on Saturday to play No. 2 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten).
Ohio State has a 21-game winning streak against Indiana and has not lost to the Hoosiers the last 23 times they’ve played, including a tie in 1990.
So, the natural inclination has been to see Indiana on the schedule and assume that was going to be an Ohio State win.
Will this year be any different? Probably not, but Indiana does have what appears to be its most balanced team in several years.
Indiana’s teams of the last few seasons could score points as well as almost anyone in the Big Ten. But the Hoosiers couldn’t stop anyone. They ranked No. 109, No. 106, No. 123, No. 95 and No. 121 nationally in total defense the last five seasons.
To fix that, head coach Kevin Wilson hired Tom Allen, who was South Florida’s defensive coordinator. He became the fifth person to hold the defensive coordinator’s title at Indiana in the last six seasons.
Suddenly a defense that allowed 37.6 points a game last season is giving up only 21.8 points a game this season.
The Hoosiers’ offense has fallen off slightly to 29 points a game, though, after losing quarterback Nate Sudfeld, running back Jordan Howard and other key offensive players from last year.
Junior college transfer Richard Lagow has taken over at quarterback and has thrown for 1,278 yards and nine touchdowns. He has six interceptions, including five in a 33-28 loss to Wake Forest
Running back Devine Redding, a Cleveland Glenville grad who has rushed for 413 yards, went over the 1,000-yards mark last year as Howard’s back-up.
Indiana has been competitive three of the four times the two teams have played since Urban Meyer became OSU’s coach.
Last season the Buckeyes won 34-27 but were behind at halftime and needed touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards by Ezekiel Elliott in the second half and a big defensive stop in the final seconds to hold on for the win.
So, could this become a year to remember, like 1988, for Indiana? It doesn’t appear to be.
Ohio State has backed up the claim that it had players on the bench last year who were equal to, or at least close to the abilities of last year’s starting lineup, which was packed with future NFL players.
This year’s 16 new starters have bought into the program. And, in something that might be overlooked at times, they have been coached very well.
There’s no doubt Indiana can play offense. It has averaged 430 yards of offense in four previous games against Urban Meyer-coached OSU teams.
Indiana is coming into this game with a lot of confidence after beating Michigan State 24-21 in overtime last Saturday night.
But eventually talent should win out. The streak will continue.
The prediction: Ohio State 45, Indiana 14.