College Football Pick
The Big Ten opens play surprisingly early with Ohio State traveling to Indiana on the final day of August. Are the Buckeyes as good as advertised? Their expectations are shown in the line with Ohio State a -20.5 point road favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Indiana put up a decent fight in this Game last year, considering how Ohio State looked in its first Four Games, and a 38-17 loss ended up being a seven-point cover for the Hoosiers. The goal will be to do the same, keeping the OSU offense in check, while also finding the end zone a couple times. That may be the goal, but it’s easier said than done after giving up 290 rushing yards in that loss.
The Buckeyes will undoubtedly use that same path to dominate with all five starters back on the line to go with J.T. Barrett and Mike Weber. Barrett couldn’t get anything going through the air in last year’s meeting (9-for-21, 93 yards) and that could be the case again as the Hoosiers return their entire secondary. If that’s the case, Indiana will be a threat to cover this Game again, especially at home.
But covering this Game will require IU to find a way to Scoreagainst a defense that’s supposed to be just as good as a season ago. The Hoosiers ran for 99 yards on 40 carries in the loss and it would actually be a positive if they could do that again with Devine Redding gone from the backfield. With three returning linemen, Indiana should at least move the ball some between Mike Majette and some unknowns. If they can’t run the ball a little bit, everything will be on senior quarterback Richard LAgow’s shoulders and that’s not exactly a good thing. He was fine against OSU last year and more of the same is the hope even though he only completed 14-of-28 passes. With Nick Westbrook and Simmie Cobbs back, LAgow at least has weapons to use in an updated spread and faster-paced offense.
Of course, testing out a new offense isn’t a great thing in the first Game against one of the country’s best defenses. Ideally, the spread of the offense will offset the strength of Ohio State up front and that will lead to quick passes and quick first downs. On the other side for Indiana, nine defensive starters return, and they could be even better after improving greatly in 2016 with 27.2 points per Game allowed.
Maybe most importantly for this Game is that Indiana was never truly blown out a year ago with the Ohio State loss (21 points), being the biggest one. The Hoosiers lost to Penn State by 14 late in the season and Michigan by 10. If Indiana is slightly better, that could be enough to cover this Game and even keep the deficit in single digits. That may be hoping for a lot, but Barrett wasn’t a dominant passer last season for OSU and if that’s the case again, it could hinder the offense against better opponents.
At 6-7 a year ago, and with Indiana in pretty good shape in terms of returning starters, we’d expect a competitive Hoosiers football team this year. With that in mind, we’re going to wait for Buckeye money to come in and we’ll take Indiana at +21 or better.