COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State is used to playing big games against fellow top-10 teams, but this is all new for upstart Indiana. And when the two teams get together in Columbus on Saturday, it will be the first for the Hoosiers.
The Hoosiers have never played Ohio State as a top-10 team — they’re No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press;the Buckeyes are No. 3 — and it’s the first time that they’ve had a top-10 matchup since the end of the 1967 season.
Foreign territory, for sure.
Despite the fact that the Hoosiers have gotten off to a good start, the oddsmakers still don’t expect this to be much of a game. Ohio State has been a three-touchdown favorite more or less all week, and even the Saturday morning line has stayed steady at 21 points.
That’s blowout range. You come to me on GameDay mornings for my predictions, an there’s a good reason for that. I have been completely dialed in on this team from the beginning.
The Hoosiers are a perfect 4-0, straight up and against the spread. So am I.
I’m not at all trying to pat myself on the back here about being 4-0 with my picks right along with the Hoosiers. I just thought they were ready to make their move against some of those teams in 2020. The tide has been turning, and I really thought they were capable, so I picked them to win four weeks in a row — and the Hoosiers have delivered.
To refresh your memory:
Week 1: Penn State at Indiana
- Point spread: Penn State by 6
- Tom’s pick: Indiana 38, Penn State 31 PROOF
- Final score: Indiana 36, Penn State 35
Week 2: Indiana at Rutgers
- Point spread: Indiana by 12
- Tom’s pick: Indiana 38, Rutgers 17 PROOF
- Final score: Indiana 37, Rutgers 21
Week 3: Michigan at Indiana
- Point spread: Michigan by 3.5
- Tom’s pick: Indiana 31, Michigan 27 PROOF
- Final score: Indiana 38, Michigan 21
Week 4: Indiana at Michigan State
- Point spread: Indiana by 7.5
- Tom’s pick: Indiana 34, Michigan State 17 PROOF
- Final score: Indiana 24, Michigan State 0
I know that Ohio State is a different animal, however, and that’s not just a one day thing. I picked them to win the national championship back in the summer, and I have a ton of respect for their talent level.
I also know how they’ve been pushing people around in the Big Ten. Here’s an amazing stat: Ohio State has won 18 straight Big Ten games by double digits. That’s a lot.
There’s this stat, too: The Buckeyes’ average margin of victory against Indiana in the past three years is 30.7 points, and they won easily in Bloomington last year, rolling to a 51-10.
This is an entirely different year, though — boy, don’t we know that. Indiana is a different team and my colleague at Ohio State, BuckeyesNow publisher Brendan Gulick, tells me that the Buckeyes are firmly focused on Indiana and are taking them seriously.
But Brendan also thinks that Buckeyes fans don’t have anything to worry about. He’s picked Ohio State to win 45-20 in our attached video, and he doesn’t think they’ll have any trouble in dispatching the Hoosiers.
And me? Well, to channel my inner Leo Corso, not so fast, my friend.
ESPN’s Football Power Index says that Ohio State has a 91 percent chance of winning. That’s ridiculous, in my book. Indiana has a better chance than that. Why? Because they’ve already proven that this season.
What’s changed for Indiana in 2020 is that they’ve been able to win the physical battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Especially the past two weeks against Michigan and Michigan State, they’ve dominated inside.
When I break down this game, though, Indiana is really going to have a challenge in controlling Ohio State’s offense because of that offensive line, which has experienced five-star recruits at every position. They allow Justin Fields time to make decisions, and it has a lot to do with him almost never making mistakes. He has 11 touchdown passes with no interceptions this year, and was 41-3 in that category a year ago.
That’s the win-or-lose battle in my book. Indiana leads the league in sacks (12), and they must pressure Fields against Saturday. Can they do that? I don’t know. And I’m worried that I don’t know.
For Indiana to win this game, they have to force a couple of turnovers, which no one has been able to do against Ohio State. And when they do, they’ll have to score off of them. Indiana has been very good about that this year, and the Hoosiers will need to do it again on Saturday.
Prediction time is tough this week. Real tough.
I have to look at it this way. I picked Ohio State to win the national championship, and they’ve done nothing to dissuade me in that pick so far. If Ohio State was playing Alabama this week, I’d pick the Buckeyes. If they were playing Clemson or Notre Dame or Florida, I would pick Ohio State.
And against Indiana? Well, I am picking Ohio State, too, but in a close one. I’ve got Ohio State winning 37-31, with a late score determining the difference.
That may disappoint my Hoosiers fans and readers, and I get that. But factor this part of the prediction into your equation. I really do think the Hoosiers can play with them. I do think they’ll take this game into the fourth quarter with a chance to win. I really do think Michael Penix Jr. is going to have a great game.
Can they get it done if everything goes right? Sure they can. It’s just hard for everything to go right against such a formidable foe.
All I know is this: I’ll be at the Horseshoe on Saturday, and I can’t wait. It could be a history-making day.
And I hope I’m wrong.