Last Updated: 2017-08-30
Usually, a College Football Playoff spot is not on the line in Week 1 of the season. However, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes open the season on the road in conference play. They will face off against Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday night. But how important is this Big Ten East matchup?
Although it does not have the cache that the Florida State Seminoles and Alabama Crimson Tide will have, it’s the most important game this week. The Seminoles or Crimson Tide will have plenty of chances to bounce back. However, a Buckeyes loss could be devastating.
Remember, the Buckeyes were gifted a College Football Playoff berth in 2016. In addition to losing to the Penn State Nittany Lions in a head to head battle, the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten. Yet, the College Football Playoff selection committee gave the Buckeyes the benefit of the doubt. The Buckeyes rewarded college football with a 31-0 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the national semifinal.
In fact, the Big Ten has been outscored 69-0 in the last two College Football Playoff games. The Michigan State Spartans got trounced by the Crimson Tide in their semifinal matchup two seasons ago. Although the Buckeyes won the inaugural championship during the 2014 season, a legitimate contender must come forward out of the Big Ten. It is safe to say, the Big Ten has never had the proper team in the College Football Playoff. Remember, the Buckeyes have been chosen due to name brand twice. They jumped Baylor and TCU in 2014. Both teams were more deserving. However, the Buckeyes quieted critics with a pair of postseason victories.
So, why do the Buckeyes have to defeat the Hoosiers in Week 1? Well, they come right back to host the Oklahoma Sooners in Week 2. More importantly, the Selection Committee had to learn from their recent mistakes. Do we really believe they would pick the Buckeyes without a Big Ten title in hand? Chances are, without a win over the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes will not win the Big Ten East, let alone the Big Ten Championship game.
Furthermore, the selection committee seems intent on keeping two-loss teams out of the playoff chase. The Buckeyes have road games at Iowa and Michigan in November. They also have a senior quarterback with a lot to prove.
When the Buckeyes faced the Hoosiers last season, the final score was 38-17. However, the Hoosiers were down 24-17 late in the third quarter. A pair of touchdowns opened the game up for the final score. As a result, it was commonplace to overlook J.T. Barrett’s struggles in their game last year.
Barrett completed 9-of-21 passes for 93 yards and one touchdown against the Hoosiers. He also threw an interception during the 21-point win. He was horrible. Interestingly enough, the Buckeyes are 21-point favorites again. The belief is, the Buckeyes can struggle and still win by three touchdowns. However, the Hoosiers’ home crowd should make a difference in the season-opener.
The Buckeyes will still rely heavily on defense in 2017. However, they have to replace major losses in the secondary, quickly. How will the young defensive backs react to the veteran receiving corps from the Hoosiers? Probably as well as the young defensive backs reacted last year. Nick Westbrook and Simmie Cobbs Jr. should provide a difficult challenge in the passing game.
Quarterback Richard Lagow only threw for 182 yards on 14-of-28 passing vs. the Buckeyes. He also threw a pair of touchdown passes. Yet, Lagow should be more poised during his second season with the Hoosiers’ offense. If he’s able to play a complete game, the Buckeyes could find their team in a fourth quarter battle. Unfortunately, Lagow will be facing the most fearsome defensive line in college football. Well, that is a good thing for the Buckeyes to get the season off to a good start.
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