Ohio State Buckeyes(0-0SU,0-0ATS) vs.Indiana Hoosiers(0-0SU,0-0ATS)
College Football Week1
Date/Time:Thursday, August 31 at 8pm ET
Point Spread:OSU -20.5/IU +20.5
It is back to school to time and thats a good thing for most parents as the kids who have been wearing out their welcomes all summer are off to be attended to by other adults. It is also a great time of year for sports as the end of the MLB and PGA seasons coincide with the start of both college and professional football seasons. The beginning weeks of most NCAA Football seasons in the past were littered with FBS teams taking on FCS cupcakes in what amounted to preseason contests but that hasnt been the case in recent years. The playoff committee that selects the four team draw for the National Championship has made it clear that top-notch matchups are to be made in the early going. Ohio State has done so by scheduling Oklahoma in Week 2 but they must first get by conference foe Indiana in Bloomington this Thursday night. The Buckeyes are looking to erase the memory of a 31-0 blowout against Clemson that ended their title hopes last year while the Hoosiers attempt to build off the momentum of a bowl berth in 2016.
It is not uncommon to see plenty of line moves in early season games and this one is no different as the opening line of Indiana +20.5 jumped both up and down over the last month before settling right where it started. The over/under total did not stay the same however as the opening total of 53 has moved all the way to 58 at most online betting sites as gameday nears. Roughly 70% of the public was on the over when the total was at 56 but the move to 58 has seen the betting settle around 55% taking the over. About 65% of the money was coming in while the Buckeyes were less than 20-point favorites and the action is virtually 50/50 now that the line has moved back to that 20.5-to-21 point territory. Early season rankings are certainly not an exact science but OSU opens as the 2nd ranked AP team and also the 2nd strongest Sagarin squad with Indiana at 59th using the computers. The Sagarin Predictor is calling for a 37-14 Ohio State victory this week.
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These teams are plenty familiar with each other and have met every year since 2009. Ohio State has won all eight of those games but is just 2-6 against the spread over that span. The Buckeyes are usually taking everyone opponents best shot and the Hoosiers have done better than most in terms of beating the Vegas odds, even if that upset win didnt happen. Ohio State is just 2-7 against the spread in their last nine games overall and Indiana is riding a couple of similar streaks with 2-5 ATS marks in their last seven at home and against a conference opponent.
There are few years where Ohio State is not among the elite in terms of talent of the field and this season is no exception. Urban Meyer got the most out of a younger group of players on the way to 11-1 last season so the expectations are sky high now that most of the two-deep has meaningful experience. Questions do loom in the secondary as three 2016 Buckeye defensive backs are now in the NFL. Indiana was able to pass the ball well for most of 2016 and should look to attack the so-far unproven portion of the OSU defense. J.T. Barrett is motor for the Ohio State offense and he is coming off Big Ten MVP honors in both of his last two seasons where he did not share starting duties. He will likely leave Columbus owning most or all QB records and he expressly returned this season to make good on the one glaring failure that ended last season. OSU looked poor in the passing game at times last year so a big improvement is necessary there if a championship goal is to be accomplished. All-in-all, there are 16 Buckeye starters returning and there is no reason to think that they will not at least duplicate the level of play they attained last season.
Indianas storylines in camp mostly surround the coaching change that happened at the end of last year. Kevin Wilson did a lot of dirty work in attempts to breathe life into a depleted Hoosier football team but he lost the support of administration over the years and was replaced DC Tom Allen directly ahead of the 2016 bowl game. Allen certainly earned a look at the head guy after making the Hoosier defense a top-35 team in total defense and trimming over ten points per game allowed from the 2015 season. He returns nine of his defensive starters, the most in the conference, and that group is led by Tegray Scales. You will see Scales on many award watch lists but this defense is talented at many places and learned to play a more disciplined style in general last year in allowing less than five yards per play after 2015 saw them yield nearly six per play. Mike DeBord comes on as Offensive Coordinator and he was behind a Tennessee offense that averaged 35.8 points per game last season and really hit a stride late to become one of the better offenses around, even against those tough SEC defenses. The problem with the IU offense is likely more tied to talent than scheme but senior signal caller Richard Lagow can sling it and there are some playmakers on the Hoosier side. Mike Majette has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his career and Devonte Williams netted over 1,000 all-purpose yards last year but the O-Line in Bloomington needs to take a major step forward if the offense is going to a consistent producer. WR Simmie Cobbs has NFL wideout size and could pose a trouble spot for the OSU secondary but watch Cobbs status as he is facing a possible suspension.
I think the extended window of preparation helps the Hoosiers put forth a gameplan that will help them stay relevant in this game. There is no doubt that Indiana will come out fired up at home and perhaps the Ohio State players will be looking just a bit forward to their matchup with Oklahoma. There is a bit of mystery as to just how Allen and DeBord will deploy their full schemes, again helping Indiana potentially stay in this contest. Look for Barrett to come out and play better than a year ago but I wouldnt expect an immediate uptick in the passing game. That improvement will come more after weeks of reps against legitimate competition. OSU will still have to lean on the running game and use the short passing attack to keep the chains moving. Doing so against an Indiana defense that is supposed to be better than even the improved version from last year could prove difficult, especially early, and that all added together starts to look like the Hoosiers are going to be hard to get rid of.
I doubt Indiana is going to move fast and often on offense as they should prefer to control the ball and play some keep away. They can attack the iffy OSU secondary but that doesnt mean automatic production given Lagow is not exactly consistent. He is capable of making plays but he threw nearly the same amount of interceptions last season as touchdowns and that kind of play will spell doom against the top foes. After a slow start, Ohio State gets a comfy win but look for Indiana to keep their ATS win streak alive in this series. Indiana has a future that seems much brighter than their recent past but they are still a 6-6 or 7-5 type of team and those type of teams do not often push the Buckeyes. OSU 37 IU 18
EvergreensPick to Cover the Point Spread:Indiana
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