Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2 SU, 11-2 ATS, 6-7 O/U) at Indiana Hoosiers (6-7 SU, 6-7 ATS, 4-9 O/U)
When and Where: Thursday, Aug. 31, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind., 8pmET
Line: Ohio State -20.5
No. 2 Ohio State was embarrassed in the College Football Playoff semifinal by Clemson, 31-0 on Dec. 31 of last season. That loss snapped a five-game winning streak and put a damper on a great season. The Buckeyes return eight players on offense including senior quarterback J.T. Barrett and sophomore running back Mike Weber. The Buckeyes will open the 2017 regular season, facing Indiana, a team they blew out at home last season, 38-17 from Bloomington.
Barrett is the straw that stirs the drink
J.T. Barrett (26-4 record as a starter) isn’t the biggest, fastest or strongest-armed quarterback in the land. He is one of the sharpest, toughest and most experienced of the Power Five programs. Last season, Barrett threw for 2,555 yards with 24 TDs and seven picks (61.5%). He also ran for 845 yards and nine touchdowns on 4.1 yards per carry. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the former Indiana head coach, will run the offense with Tim Beck gone to Texas to help out new coach Tom Herman.
Offense shouldn’t be a major issue as the Buckeyes averaged 39.4 points per game and 459.2 yards per game. Running back Mike Weber returns after rushing for 1,096 yards with nine TDs on a 6.0 yards per carry average. But they could miss all-around back Curtis Samuel, who ran for 771 yards and caught 74 passes for 865 yards. The leading returning receiver is Parris Campbel, who caught just 13 passes last season.
Defensively, the Buckeyes ranked sixth in the nation, allowing just 300.2 yards per game last season. They also ranked seventh against the pass, giving up 172.2 yards per game. They return three of the four defensive linemen, which should be their strength. Senior DE Tyquan Lewis and junior DE Sam Hubbard combined for 18.5 TFLs in 2016 and both return.
Lagow returns to power Indiana
New head coach Tom Allen was hired to improve the defense as the coordinator last season and wound up coaching the Hoosiers in the Foster Farms Bowl (26-24 loss to Utah), when Wilson resigned. The Indiana defense went from being ranked last in the Big Ten allowing nearly 510 yards per game, to holding opponents to just 380 yards. Nine starters return including star linebacker Tegray Scales, who led the team with 23.5 tackles for loss.
On offense, quarterback Richard Lagow is back after completing 57.8 percent of his passes for 3,362 yards, 19 TDs and 17 interceptions as a junior. Mike Debord comes over from Tennessee to run the offense, which should be played more methodically. That might not be a bad idea for the Hooseries, who averaged 25.8 points and 426 yards per game in 2016. Running back Devine Redding (1,122 yards, 7 TDs) is off to the NFL. Junior WR Simmie Cobbs returns after missing last season due to an injury and suspension. Two seasons ago, he went over the 1,000-yard barrier but was arrested for a misdemeanor in the offseason and his status is unknown for the opener.
Ohio State is:
- 42-20-1 ATS last 63 road games.
- 2-5 ATS last 7 home games.
- 2-5 ATS last 7 conference games.
Indiana is a mediocre team in the Big 10 facing an angry Ohio State squad that got their butts kicked in their finale. They won’t forget that and with an experienced squad returning led by Barrett, should take care of business in the opener on the road with ease.
Pick: Ohio State
Ohio State is known for an outstanding offense, but their defense is underrated. Lagow is mistake-prone, going up against one of the premier defenses in the Big 10 and the nation. Indiana will miss Redding, though they probably won’t be able to run on Ohio State with or without him. The Hoosiers struggled on offense last season so expect this score to go under the total.