THE SITUATIONAL: Devil's Playground

By Ramzy Nasrallah on August 30, 2023 at 1:15 pm
Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover (8) runs the ball during the third quarter of a NCAA Division I football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. Cfb Ohio State Buckeyes At Indiana Hoosiers
© Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Ever drive behind a truck towing a literal house down a one-lane road?

Your speedometer tells you going even slightly above 44mph risks depositing you inside the living room. So, 44 in a 55 it is. This is your life now. Stuck behind a house. It's moving day, bitch.

Double yellows and a condescending WIDE LOAD banner dare you to pass in spite of being blinded to oncoming traffic. Your reward is emancipation from the house on wheels, albeit with the distinct possibility of starring in the next Final Destination installment.

So drifting and dying slowly behind a bungalow en route to its new parking spot it is.

It's not always a house or a one-lane road, though. Sometimes it's a car in the left lane - the passing lane, as it's known to the civilized - prohibiting passing of any kind. Dude's going 54 in a 55 in the passing lane with his mouth wide open. He hasn't blinked in four minutes. A goldfish behind the wheel of a Kia Rio hatchback.

This goldfish is an agent from Satan intent on recruiting you to a life of crime. This proposition is only for you, no one else. It's deeply personal. Never forget, you are the whole universe.

Indiana is a fascinating land of contrasts.

I've driven between Columbus to Bloomington at least 50 times in my life, which means what you've just read is both autobiographical and syndicated. This is driving in Indiana to me. The most famous race track in America is located there, somehow.

Indiana is a fascinating land of contrasts. A basketball state with no basketball titles beyond one 2012 WNBA crown. A basketball desert going back to a time when Soviets still existed.

Sometimes I wonder if that wide load house on the one-lane road was same house every time, just stalking me and trying to turn me into The Joker. Don't roll your eyes; this was plot of Jaws 4: The Revenge but with a shark. Maybe that left lane cork was the same mouth-breather every time, too.

Now that I think about it, that guy never grew old. He didn't age at all. I did all the aging.

Speaking of survival, you made it through another offseason. It's Week One! Let's get Situational.


Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) runs with the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ: Ezekiel Elliott runs against Notre Dame in 2016 Fiesta Bowl. ©Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Buckeyes have three scheduled trips to the Hoosier State and if everything goes according to plan they'll end up playing four football games there. That's two more fewer than they'll have in Ohio.

According to a rule that I just made up, any visiting program that manages to win three Power 5-caliber road games in the same state automatically becomes that state's champion. So in addition to the final East Division title, the B1G title and the CFP - the Indiana State Championship is also on the table.

If they can go 3-0 in Indiana, it will be Ohio State's first Hoosier belt in 27 years.


The closest game that season was the one in Bloomington, which featured Woody Hayes acolyte, Ohio native and Miami alumnus Bill Mallory in his twilight throwing everything he had at his former employer.

The Buckeyes brought roses to Bloomington and almost had to keep them bagged on the sideline. We'll touch on this later on, but this year's Hoosiers have a hot seat coach who hasn't earned the right to retire out of the job.

We should find out quickly on Saturday if the Hoosiers will truly attempt to slay the giant as Mallory's final team did, or if they're content to run clock and escape with a cosmetic, quality loss.

Related: here's Matt Finkes - still no.5 all-time in sacks at Ohio State! - running faster than he has ever run in his life back in that 1996 Indiana game that clinched the state championship:

1996: Andy Katzenmoyer with the strip, Matt Finkes with the fumble-six to give the Buckeyes some breathing room.

Yeah, I sped it up - he'll thank me. The road to securing that rare Hoosier belt starts Saturday.


The Solo

CONTENT NOTE: This season Situational enthusiasts are controlling the Intermission jukebox, and as is the case in your local tavern - nobody knows who's choosing the songs. You have the right to get mad. If this goes off the rails, good.

The Situational should be good for at least one random anecdote you can drop on the new friends you make between Wednesday afternoon and kickoff. So here you go: Michael Stipe and Martin Sheen used to have the same dentist.

Their teeth shared a mutual acquaintance, but the two men didn't actually know each other. Then one fateful day, both had appointments. Stipe walked back and found Sheen while he was horizontal and in the throes of having his Hollywood grill cleaned:

STIPE: We have a record coming out in a couple of weeks and you're mentioned in one of the songs and I just want you to know we're honoring you, I don't want you to think we're making fun of you.

SHEEN, IN THE DENTIST'S CHAIR: Aarghle barrrghle gar bar frahn yarl

Two legends united by fluoride. Stipe tells this story much better, but in my defense he was there. The song he's referring to is Electrolite, which features a haunting violin solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the violin player in this video actually playing the violin?

That's your 2000 Ohio Grand Champion Fiddler Andrew Carlson, whom you may have seen play with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra if you had tickets for the right nights. He so handled violin duties on Cowboy Junkies' Lay it Down.

Alas, R.E.M. shot Electrolite without Andrew. Go Bucks anyway. VERDICT: Inconclusive.

Does this violin solo slap?

Speaking of symphony orchestras, I have season tickets to weepy violin solos. I'll admit this here and deny it later - if a song can make me cry, it's in heavy rotation for me and I'll play it on repeat while driving, whether it's on an open road or behind a house going 43mph in Indiana.

If 80s saxophone solos are my spouse, weepy violin solos are my imaginary Canadian girlfriend who was too good for the real world. Anyway, I share a dentist with Joe Piscopo. Never seen him - but if I do, I'll tell him about this while he's getting a root canal. VERDICT: Slaps

hey kids looks what's back in stock in all sizes

The Bourbon

There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice.

Panty melter. You're welcome.
American Highway Reserve. Available in Ohio.

Yes, I believe the idea for American Highway Reserve was hatched in a marketing meeting where the success of Jefferson Ocean was being discussed.

Ocean is famously aged at sea, absorbing both the salty air and the *lowers voice* motion of the ocean, bouncing between ports to deliver what is promoted as a unique aging process. I smelled more bourbon than bullshit, and Voyage 15 is still among the greatest surprises I've ever experienced at a tasting. The salt, the air, the rocking - I'm in. It works.

American Highway Reserve is just like that, except on a 53-foot semi-trailer instead of a boat. The air will only be salty if it truck is on the coasts or in Utah. And the route is charted by wherever country musician Brad Paisley happens to be touring, so a celebrity vig is embedded in your retail price.

Highway is a blend of four bourbons; two youngs and two olds but all of them are screaming with rye so expect heat from start to finish. My experience was a bite of Toblerone, essence of pungent shoe leather and surprisingly less bite than I expected from all that rye.

This first edition retails at a $100, congrats Mr. Paisley. When your tour hits Indiana, gently remind your rig driver that the left lane is for p a s s i n g, please and thank you.


the closest Tom Allen will ever get to any kind of trophy
Indiana head coach Tom Allen speaks to the media during 2023 B1G media day at Lucas Oil Stadium. © Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

We've reached the part where we get to talk about my alma maters playing each other. The conference's biggest football cult facing its least-serious football program. It's a rivalry to me. Please respect my decision.

Indiana won six games in 2020. The Hoosiers have won six games since 2020. That glorious season, played mostly in empty stadiums and featuring B1G programs missing a third of their rosters at kickoff was somehow not the turning point IU football enthusiasts hoped it would be.

Bloomington has different standards. Football erotica in Southern Indiana isn't even PG-13. Nine wins is the aspiration. Nine. Ohio State has a former head coach with nine in his nickname. It was also on his termination notice in 1987.

In 2023, nine wins qualifies as a XXX-rated fantasy for Tom Allen in his seventh season - if he's allowed to finish it (he will be, because his employer is deeply unserious about football). I don't think the Hoosiers will exceed one-third of a #9WINDIANA aspiration.

IU's season is going to play out like Oregon Trail, but death by dysentery won't get that wagon out of Missouri. The Hoosiers lost a third of their bad 2022 roster to the portal and replaced it with players from other schools with nearly identical recruiting profiles.

the best Marvin Harrison to ever catch a pass in the state of Indiana
Kyle McCord hits Marvin Harrison Jr. against Indiana for a sizable gain this Saturday two years ago.

That's what garbage time looked like the last time the Buckeyes were in Bloomington, when the home team had a more cohesive roster that had tasted some success. It's what the Hoosiers are going to be facing in the 1st quarter on Saturday.

The good news for IU is B1G is dissolving its divisions, which means Bloomington's frequency of becoming Columbus West will be slowing down with haste. They won't see whomever the Hoosiers face in garbage time this Saturday until 2025, in actual Columbus.

Better news for beleaguered IU football enthusiasts: Allen won't be making that trip. And the Hoosiers' next head coach might just be on the visitors' sideline this weekend. Cliffhanger!

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Beat Indiana.

View 67 Comments