30 minutes — and cleaning up the ineptness — is all that stands between No. 6 Ohio State and an early-December working vacation in Indianapolis. Whether they are making enough of a positive impression on the College Football Playoff committee to take an early-January trip to the semifinals is another matter entirely.
The game against 3-7 Indiana began with quite the impression, with OSU scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions allowing it to jump out to a quick 14-0 lead less than halfway through the first quarter. An extended game of hot potato subsequently ensued, however, resulting in turnovers on three consecutive possessions — a Michael Thomas fumble followed by interceptions on back-to-back drives by J.T. Barrett.
The Hoosiers, which beat SEC East leader Missouri earlier this season, turned those three turnovers into six points and trailed 14-13 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Buckeyes then proceeded to go three-and-out on its last two full possessions to put an exclamation point on a miserable last 23 or so minutes of the half.
To the surprise of just about everyone, the Buckeyes, up 14-13, took just a one-point lead into the locker room, a showing that will do little for its playoff standing if the shoddy play continues into the second half.
Barrett, who has quickly become a bigger part of the Heisman conversation of late, has seen the stiff-armed momentum at least temporarily slowed. While the redshirt freshman completed 10-of-13 passes, and tied the single-season school record for touchdown passes (Troy Smith, 30, 2006), he had the two costly interceptions.
Both of those picks, incidentally, were by IU’s Antonio Allen.
If the Buckeyes hold onto the lead for the final two quarters, they will claim the Big Ten East and represent the division in the Dec. 6 Big Ten championship game. OSU would also clinch the division today with a Michigan State loss, although MSU is currently up on Rutgers 35-0 late in the second quarter.