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Indiana hosts #2 Ohio State Thursday night
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 8/30/2017  at  12:31:00 PM
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Kickoff: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -21, Total: XXX

#2 Ohio Stateís championship quest begins with a Week 1 trip to Bloomington.

An 11-win season and College Football Playoff berth are little consolation for the way Ohio Stateís 2016 season ended, with an embarrassing 31-0 loss to eventual national champion Clemson. Head coach Urban Meyerís teams are never short on talent, and returning starters QB J.T. Barrett and RB Mike Weber will pace a running game that should be elite. Though the Buckeyes need to replace three starters from the nationís best secondary a year ago, they are loaded with future pros up front and should feature an improved pass rush in 2017. After six seasons as Indianaís head coach and back-to-back bowl game appearances, Kevin Wilson resigned amidst an investigation of how he dealt with injured players. Wilson is now the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes. Hoosiers defensive coordinator Tom Allen was promoted to head coach after IUís defense showed remarkable improvement in his first season with the school. He returns nine of his starters on that side of the ball. The Hoosiers will miss Wilsonís offensive acumen, and QB Richard Lagow was too mistake-prone last season. He has a solid receiving group to work with, but questions linger in the running game. Indiana hasnít beaten Ohio State since 1988 (IU is 0-23-1 vs. OSU since), but the Hoosiers have covered the spread in each of their last six meetings. The Buckeyes failed to cover a 28-point spread at home last October, beating the Hoosiers 38-17 as Barrett ran for 137 yards but completed just 9-of-21 passes for 93 yards. Ohio State is 5-0 SU & 3-1-1 ATS in Big Ten openers under Meyer.

Ohio State scored 39.4 points per game last season (13th in the nation), and brought in former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as their new offensive coordinator. His backfield is set, with QB J.T. Barrett (2,555 passing yards and 25 TD, 845 rushing yards and 9 TD) capable of improving on an up-and-down year. Managing 6.8 yards per pass attempt (89th in FBS) last season, Barrett loses his top three targets from last season, and the maturation of an inexperienced WR group will be a major factor in OSUís season. RB Mike Weber averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his 1,096-yard, nine-TD debut season, and thereís plenty of athleticism behind him. Three members of the Buckeyes secondary were first-round picks in April, but the front seven will be as good as any in the nation. The return of DLs Tyquan Lewis (8 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 3 forced fumbles), Nick Bosa (5 sacks, 7 TFL) and Sam Hubbard (3.5 sacks, 8 TFL) will improve the pass rush. LB Jerome Baker (83 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 2 INT) made several huge plays against strong competition, and Chris Worley (4.5 TFL, 5 passes defended) should thrive in his new role at middle linebacker.

Mike DeBord takes over as Indianaís offensive coordinator after two years running Tennesseeís prolific offense. QB Richard Lagow (3,362 yards, 19 TD, 17 INT) kept the Hoosiers passing game moving in his first season out of junior college, but committed far too many costly turnovers. His top receiver from last season, WR Nick Westbrook (54 receptions, 995 yards, 6 TD) is back. So is WR Simmie Cobbs, who redshirted last year with an ankle injury after amassing 60 receptions and 1,035 yards in 2015. Bellcow RB Devine Redding, the only Hoosier with more than 250 rushing yards last season, left early for the pros, leaving RBs Mike Majette, Cole Gest and Devonte Williams (among others) to rotate in the inexperienced backfield. IUís 2016 defense allowed 10.4 fewer points per game and 129 fewer yards per game than they did in 2015. Second Team All-Big Ten honorees LB Tegray Scales (126 total tackles, 7 sacks, 23.5 TFL) and CB Rashard Fant (3 INT, 17 pass breakups) are the top defensive players for Indiana. Returning DLs Nate Hoff (2.5 sacks, 6 TFL) and Greg Gooch (5.5 TFL) were instrumental in holding opponents to 3.8 yards per rush (28th in FBS) and 97.5 rushing yards per game (8th). Hybrid LB/DB Marcelino Ball (75 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 8 pass breakups) impressed in his rookie season, and the entire secondary returns intact.

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