Much Has Changed Since Last IU Trip

For years, the ritual was as simple as wash, rinse, repeat: Ohio State would travel to Indiana, take over half the stadium with its fans and deliver a beating to the home squad. But OSU hasn't been to Bloomington since 2005, and IU has a renovated stadium, new enthusiasm and a 3-1 team. Will things change in this border rivalry?

Like siblings who wouldn't see one another for years, Ohio State and Indiana bid adieu in 2006.

Whether much has changed between the Buckeyes, the big brother in the all-time series at 65-12-5, and Hoosiers will be found out Saturday night when they renew acquaintances.

Since the teams last played another, a 44-3 win for then-No. 1 OSU in Ohio Stadium, Ohio State has been the same program as usual, a national powerhouse capable of winning a championship each and every year.

Indiana, meanwhile, might not look all that familiar to those in scarlet and gray on Saturday night. When OSU left the Hoosiers, they were still struggling doormats coached by the late Terry Hoeppner, the mentor who would put the program on the right track that culminated with its first bowl bid in 14 years in 2007.

After an injury-plagued and frustrating 2008, the Hoosiers are trying to dust themselves off and make a name for themselves yet again. It's all part of the grand design first established by Coach Hep and carried on by Bill Lynch to make Indiana something more than a basketball school.

"The thing I like about Indiana's team, when Coach Hoeppner went in there a few years back, they put a plan together," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "Obviously unfortunately he passed, but his plan has remained and Coach Lynch and the rest of the staff took over and have just tried to carry it on."

The main linchpin of that planned rebuilding is a literal building – the new North End Zone facility constructed to match Indiana's facilities with those possessed by the rest of the Big Ten.

In the past, Memorial Stadium consisted of two sets of bleachers separated from one another. It was essentially a giant high school stadium that usually was filled to less-than-capacity even for league contests.

Ohio State supporters would take advantage of that over the years, often filling half of the stadium with scarlet-clad fans more than happy to get an O-H-I-O chant going around the venue.

But the edifice the Buckeyes – well, mostly their fans, as only Lawrence Wilson remains from the squad that actually took the field in 2005 – will see has been improved with the NEZ facility, which links the two bleachers with seating and includes new offices and a state-of-the-art weight room. First Hoeppner and now new athletic director Fred Glass have dedicated boundless energy to boosting the gameday atmosphere in the stadium.

As of Tuesday, just a few thousand tickets remained, which means there should be quite a college atmosphere on Saturday night. What remains to be seen is just how much of the crowd will be supporting IU and how much will be rooting for the visitors.

"I just tell our guys, all that red is for you," Tressel quipped Tuesday. "I don't know who's for who when we're in that stadium."

Whatever Tressel tells his Buckeyes, it works. Ohio State hasn't lost in Bloomington since 1988, John Cooper's first year, and has beaten IU by a combined score of 103-30 in three trips to southern Indiana under Tressel. Overall, the Buckeyes haven't lost a road game in Big Ten play since falling at Penn State in 2005, a span of 15 games.

The ninth-ranked Buckeyes will try to continue those streaks in unfamiliar surroundings on Saturday. There will be no walk-through in the renovated stadium on Friday because the team is staying in Indianapolis, making focus on the trip all the more important.

"Give a lot of credit to the coaches," senior captain Doug Worthington said. "They keep us focused. The road focus is tremendous. They make sure we have a lot of film to watch and make sure we get a feel for the team. We don't have the 12th man so we have to do everything in our power to get the job done."

In addition to seeing a new Memorial Stadium, the Buckeyes expect to see a different Hoosier squad as well. Indiana is 3-1 and coming off of what very well could have been a historic win against Michigan last Saturday. The Hoosiers haven't won in Ann Arbor since 1967 but took Michigan to the wire before a touchdown pass in the final three minutes gave the Wolverines a 36-33 win.

That performance got Ohio State's attention, said Jake Ballard, a senior tight end who got his first touchdown against IU in 2006.

"A little bit," Ballard said when asked if he was surprised by IU's play. "Michigan is a good team, but this isn't the same Indiana team from the past. They're doing a good job and they're building confidence from week to week.

"Indiana is a basketball school, and they're trying to tell everybody, ‘We play football, we're a good team and we're going to surprise some people in the Big Ten.' "

The Buckeyes haven't seen Indiana in Bloomington for four years. The little brother has fixed up his house and is starting to get things in order. Whether the series will be just like old times, though, will be found out Saturday night at 7.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories