OVERVIEW: Although Ohio State is undefeated and crushing every opponent, the team will need to stay playing at the current level and keep improving as they head to the middle of the schedule. With road games looming with Wisconsin and Penn State, could the Buckeyes get caught looking ahead this week against Indiana? That usually does not happen under Urban Meyer, even though the Hoosiers have consistently played Ohio State well the past few years.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO THE GAME FOR BOTH TEAMS? Ohio State has feasted on turnovers defensively, and Indiana has turned it over a lot so far this year. If it happens again this week, the Hoosiers should plan on hearing the OSU band playing a lot. The same question will be constant every week for defenses going against Ohio State: Can you stop the run? Can you make J.T. Barrett beat you throwing the football? Nobody has come close yet.
WHAT WILL OSU DO OFFENSIVELY? Even though Indiana will probably be the best defense Ohio State has seen this year, it's not like they are the reincarnation of the 1986 Chicago Bears. Indiana has done an average job of stopping the run this season, and Saturday average won't cut it against Ohio State. If Mike Weber is pounding the ball at the Hoosier D-tackles, Curtis Samuel is taking option pitches around the corner, and Barrett is zone reading them to death, then stop the preaching because the service is over. If, BIG-BIG IF, Indiana can slow down the run enough and put Barrett in long third-down situations, they have a chance to hang around. If Barrett is watching OSU pound the rock all day, at some point he will play action to a wide open wide receiver streaking down the field. Can Indiana make Barrett throw when he has to, like on 3rd-and-12? If not, they will give up lots of points.
WHAT WILL OSU DO DEFENSIVELY? Conversely, can Indiana run it enough to not be one-dimensional where they're throwing on every down? If they get down early and have to abandon the running game, their quarterback will get a mouthful of Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. That pressure will bring throws that go off target and hit Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward in the hands. A few seconds later the QB will hear the Buckeye Battle Cry. Indiana needs to keep the OSU defense off balance, and be able to both run and pass the football. Three-and-outs are bad, but turnovers are worse. When scoring opportunities arise, they need to cash in.
WHAT SPECIAL TEAM PLAY WILL OCCUR? Ohio State is going to block a punt, field goal or extra point. Bank That. Don't want to say more, but this will happen.
THE OFFENSIVE "WOW" PLAYER: I still think Curtis Samuel is an All-American and their best football player. He will impact this game with some big play or plays. Probably a touchdown from long distance.
THE DEFENSIVE "WOW" PLAYER: Even though he's been solid, efficient, reliable and trustworthy, Raekwon McMillan has not really "wowed" yet. Indiana will need to run the football. McMillan's job will be to stop that run cold. I think he does exactly that.
THE VEGAS LINE: You want to bet on Ohio State? That's cool and Las Vegas will let you do that. But like going to a Miami Beach hotel in January, you have to pay a higher rate. I think 29 points is WAY too high to give a decent Big Ten team. Shoot, hapless Bowling Green only got 27. Indiana isn't Bowling Green. Now just like paying twice the price in Miami can still get you a great vacation, laying 7-9 points more than you should can also pay off if Ohio State wins the game 52-17. Which could easily happen. For me, I'm taking the bait like a rat going after free cheese. I'm going to take Indiana +29 and hope it's not 31-0 at the half. If Indiana can hang in for a half, like Tulsa could have if the coach hadn't lost his mind, or like sorry Rutgers almost did, I think they can make this somewhat of a game. The total of 59 should be about right. Indiana +29 is the pick.
THE PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 41 Indiana 17.
BONUS PICKS: Not content to go against one powerhouse, I'm going for double or nothing and taking Arkansas +14 against Ala-freaking-Bama. Think a lot of Big Bret as a coach and he fears nobody, and his team feeds off that. They will take Bama to the wire and just might win the game. Also really, really like TCU giving 28 to Kansas. I think TCU is really good, despite the two losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma. Kansas ain't either of them. TCU will get over 50. Can Kansas get 14? No. The record so far is 4-1. Let's hope it's not 4-4 come Saturday night.