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GameDay Prediction: Timing, Talent Makes a Difference For Indiana Against Ohio State

Indiana has lost four straight games to ranked teams so far this season, and now comes what might be the toughest test yet when No. 5 Ohio State visits Bloomington for a Saturday night showdown on national TV. Sadly, many elements are stacking up against Indiana, and that plays out in my GameDay Prediction.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — My favorite game of the 2020 college football season was the shootout between Indiana and Ohio State last year. It was a top-10 showdown of unbeatens between No. 9 Indiana and No. 3 Ohio State, and it was a doozy.

Indiana fell behind by four touchdowns early in the third quarter, but roared back to get within a touchdown, with the ball in their hands. Ohio State finally held on, winning 42-35, but Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was terrific, throwing for 491 yards and five touchdowns.

The two teams meet again on Saturday night in Bloomington, with a primetime game under the lights at Memorial Stadium. But a lot has changed in a year.

Ohio State is still firmly in the top-10, checking in at No. 5 this week with a 5-1 record and the only blemish a loss to Oregon in Week 2. Indiana, however, has been in a freefall this season, off to a 2-4 start with losses to four teams that have been ranked in the top-eight already this season. 

The glass-half-full guy in me is really struggling to find a way that Indiana wins this game this week. I'm just not seeing it.

This game doesn't remind me of 2020. To be honest, it's more like 2019, when Indiana and Ohio State met in Bloomington in Week 3. This Indiana renaissance was in its infantile stage at the time, and that game was supposed to be a barometer of where the Hoosiers were in the rebuild.

The problem, though, was the Penix got hurt the week earlier in a 52-0 against Eastern Illinois, and Peyton Ramsey had to start against Ohio State. Ramsey, who played well the rest of the year in multiple trips off the bench, wasn't that good against the Buckeyes, and the Hoosiers' defense had no answer in the 51-10 loss.

That's the feel I have for Saturday night, with a couple of exceptions.

I think Indiana's defense is much better now than it was in 2019. Micah McFadden is playing at an All-American level at linebacker and Ryder Anderson has been a great addition at defensive end. Indiana's secondary, despite a slew of injuries, has played well. So I don't see Ohio State scoring 51 on Saturday night, not even close.

But there are still serious concerns about the health of cornerbacks Tiawan Mullen, who's missed two straight games with a foot injury, and Reese Taylor, who tried to go last week but couldn't. Ohio State has the best set of wide receivers in the country, and it needs to be all hands on deck for Indiana. They're both game-time decisions, which never sounds good.

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The other 2019 similarity is that Michael Penix Jr. will not play Saturday night against Ohio State. He's going to miss another game because of a separated AC joint in his left throwing shoulder. Jack Tuttle, who is 1-2 in three career starts, will get the call.

Tuttle had turnover issues last week against Michigan State, too, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble on a strip sack. The first interception was his fault, a bad read that led to a pick-six in the first quarter, but the second pick and the strip sack were as much on Indiana's much-maligned offensive line as it was on Tuttle.

Ohio State can bring it when it comes to pash rush, and I see that as being a big issue on Saturday as well. I just can't see Indiana's offensive line holding up against them.

It's a huge ask for Tuttle to make a bunch of big plays with pass rushers constantly in his face, but for Indiana to have a chance, he's going to have to do that. Penix threw for 491 last year and that still wasn't enough. Tuttle will have to throw for at least 300 against the Buckeyes — and he can't have a single turnover.

I just don't see that happening. Ohio State opened as a 19.5-point favorite, but it's up to 21 now on the website. The over/under has trickled down to 59 from 61.5. That sounds like 2019 stuff, doesn't it? To be fair, Ohio State was a 21-point favorite a year ago, and I gladly took the Hoosiers and the points in that pick a year ago. 

But this is completely different this year, it really is. The optimism that Indiana came into the season with has been worn down by the four losses to highly ranked teams. And what's scary is that Ohio State is probably better than all four of them, better than Iowa and Penn State and Cincinnati and certainly Michigan State.

So I can't make a case at all for Indiana winning, and I also can't make a case for the Hoosiers even covering because I just don't see them being able to score enough points. The IU defense will show up, and play tough, but they can't do it all themselves. Indiana's offense hasn't been good, and special teams are having a rough year, too.

Ohio State is also coming off a bye week, with two weeks to prepare for the Hoosiers. They're also healthy and well-rested, which the Hoosiers can't say right now. They're missing a lot of key pieces.

The pick, sadly, is Ohio State 38, Indiana 13. It's going to be a perfect crisp fall night in Bloomington, with a national TV audience watching on ABC. I'd love to see some surprises, of course, but I just can't realistically see it either.

And please, please, please keep in mind that this is JUST a prediction. There is no rooting interest at stake here from the press box, and this isn't what I WANT to see, it's just my prediction on what I think will happen. It's no different than me picking them to win against Iowa or Cincinnati or Michigan State. It's a prediction, not a myopic view of what might happen.

  • HOW TO WATCH: Indiana is back home again for the second straight weekend, taking on No 5-ranked Ohio State under the lights at Memorial Stadium. It's a primetime national TV game, so here's how to watch, with game times, TV information, the latest on the point spread and more. CLICK HERE 
  • ESPN GAMEDAY COMMENTS: Here's what Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and the guys said about Indiana, Ohio State and the Big Ten during Saturday morning's College GameDay pregame show. CLICK HERE
  • OPPOSING SIDELINE: Here's what Ohio State's players and coaches are saying about the matchup with Indiana on Saturday night. CLICK HERE
  • TOM BREW COLUMN: Indiana has lost four straight games to ranked opponents to start the season, and confidence can be a fragile thing. It's a fine line to walk, Hoosiers coach Tom Allen says, in fixing mistakes but also keeping player confident and aware that they can succeed. CLICK HERE
  • LOTS, GATES OPEN EARLY: To better handle the sellout crowd expected for Saturday night's game between Ohio State and Indiana at Memorial stadium, the university is opening the campus parking lots and stadium gates earlier than usual. Here are all the details. CLICK HERE
  • RYDER ANDERSON INTERVIEW: Indiana defensive end Ryder Anderson joined the Mike & Micah podcast on Tuesday night, and he had plenty of great stories to tell, including being able to laugh now about roughing up quarterback Jack Tuttle in the Outback Bowl in January when he was still playing for Ole Miss. CLICK HERE
  • MICHAEL PENIX INTERVIEW: Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. updated his injury status during the Mike & Micah podcast on Tuesday night, and defensive end Ryder Anderson was a special guest, and he had a ton of great stories to share with the audience. CLICK HERE