Ohio State vs. Indiana
Time: 7 PM CT
Spread: OSU -21.5
Odds c/o Bovada
The Ohio State Buckeyes return starting quarterback T.J. Barrett and seven other offensive starters. Building momentum should prove easy for Urban Meyer’s club, even if some improvements from 2016 are absolutely requisite. Atop that list is improving Barrett’s effectiveness, especially in the slot.
Meyer hired former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to work on this aspect, and Ryan Day was hired as a quarterback coach. Day is a former QB coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and he should be able to bring the best out of Barrett. His top receivers will be Binjimen Victor and Terry McLaurin, as well as tight end Marcus Baugh. His most effective playmaker from last season, Curtis Samuel, is departed.
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The Buckeyes also benefit from returning redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and should only improve on that as he lines up his NFL draft prospects in his sophomore season. Weber should have improved depth behind him, starting with freshman J.K. Dobbins. The OL also returns four starters, including Jamarco Jones and Billy Price. Price slides from right guard to the center spot, following in the footsteps of Pat Elflein who made the same adjustment a year ago.
The Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best defensive lineups on paper, starting with one of the best defensive lines seen in quite a while. OSU returns all four starters up front. Tyquan Lewis was the Big Ten DL player of the year, and Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill will team up with him to form an air-tight quartet of talent. Jayln Holmes and Nick Bosa will also be in the rotation. Nick is the younger brother of standout Joey Bosa, who is now in the NFL.
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Ultimately, how good the Buckeyes are is utterly dependent on Barrett returning to the star level of play he showed as a freshman. That Barrett can guide this team to a national title, but if he is more like the Barrett we saw last year, then last year’s results are inevitable. Not that such is all that bad, after all, given that OSU did win 11 games last year and fell just short in the Big Ten after posting an 8-1 conference mark.
Indiana finished 6-7 last season with a 4-5 mark in Big Ten play. The team has first year coach Tom Allen taking over in the stead of Kevin Wilson, and Hoosier fans should expect a fun, fast-paced offense. QB Richard Lagow started every game a season ago, and he threw for 3,352 yards. The pass offense ranked No. 28 in the nation.
Lagow has some good receiving options this year at IU. Simmie Cobbs caught 60 passes for 1,035 yards two years ago and missed last season, and Nick Westbrook is a premier receiver who caught 54 passes for 995 yards last year. The backfield will suffer the loss of two-time First Team All American Dan Feeney. Devin Redding is gone, too. The approach could be a by-committee effort, with no real option as a no. 1 back emerging in the spring practices. There is some talent in Fresh All-American Coy Cronk and juniors Wes Martin and Brandon Knight.
Last year, Indiana held teams to 380.1 yards per game, an improvement of nearly 130 yards on the season prior. It held opponents to 94.1 fewer passing yards last year, and the improvement in the secondary should continue with a returning cornerback and two returning safeties.
Indiana went to Bowls in each of the past two seasons, but it was below .500 last year and it will be lucky to be above it this year. The Hoosiers are going to have their definite strengths, but this is a team that struggles to match up with much of the Big Ten.