Even Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell seemed to acknowledge the Buckeyes’ biggest foe this week figures to be complacency.
Coming off its biggest win of the season – a 33-29 triumph over then-No. 12 Wisconsin that feature a two lead changes in the last two minutes – and riding a modest two-game winning streak, Ohio State will face Indiana at noon Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
The 1-8 Hoosiers have lost six in a row since picking up their only win of the season, a 38-21 defeat of NCAA FCS division foe South Carolina State on Sept. 17.
They have given up 59 points in two of their last three games and allowed at least 41 points in four consecutive games.
This year they are last in the Big Ten in scoring defense and total defense.
The Indiana program does not exactly have a history of success against Ohio State, either, as evidenced by a current 18-game winless streak in the series. The Hoosiers have beaten the Buckeyes only twice in the past 50 years.
Fickell began his weekly press conference by thanking fans for creating a special feeling last week in only the third Big Ten night game in Ohio Stadium history.
“I wouldn’t want to start any other way than to thank the fans and the crowd and the students for an unbelievable atmosphere this week,” Fickell said. “I had to get in the car afterward and ask my wife if I truly felt and saw that atmosphere as good as it was. I wasn’t sure if it was my heart that was pounding of the screams from the crowd. It was an unbelievable experience.
“That’s what Ohio State football is all about.”
As far as avoiding a letdown after playing four straight games against ranked opponents, Fickell said the key will be continuing to keep its focus inward.
“We have harped on it and will continue to in about two hours that November is where the real games begin,” he said. “How you start isn’t exactly how you’re remembered, but it’s how you finish is the key. November has always been a focus for us. Today is Nov. 1, so it’s about us getting better. Those guys need to understand our performance is about our preparation.”
If any program knows about November success, it is Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have won or shared the past six Big Ten championships thanks in large part to a remarkable 17-1 mark in that month from 2005-10.
After being nearly left for dead three weeks ago, they are back in the running for a seventh conference crown if they can win out and get a little bit of help.
Of course, that means Fickell has to guard against his team becoming too full of itself after besting the Badgers.
“Since the time I came here, I’ve always felt the toughest thing here is to be able to handle those praises, those successes that you have,” said the first-year head coach, an Ohio State alumnus who first joined the coaching staff in 2002. “Criticisms? Yes, those drain you emotionally but to handle criticism just makes you tougher. When things are going successfully, how can you handle that? To me, that’s every bit as much of a distraction as the negative stuff.”