BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A lot of my critics will say I have rocks rolling around in my head, but today I've got a different problem.
I'm hearing voices in my head instead.
I'm trying to zero in on all the right reasons to come up with the proper pick for today's huge football game in Bloomington between No. 8 Cincinnati and Indiana, and every time I think I've got it figured out, I hear these voices, slapping me around.
The GameDay Prediction is a big deal here at Sports Illustrated Indiana. I hit on 11 of 12 games in 2019, and went 6-1 last year, even picking those Indiana upsets over ranked teams Penn State and Michigan.
You guys count on me to add a sawbuck or two to your bankroll, or a benjamin or four or five for the higher rollers, and I take that seriously. My perspective on Indiana's games is usually right on.
I'm 1-1 so far this year, badly missing on the opener at Iowa — where I wasn't alone. But I was right back on it last week, picking Indiana to win by 42 points — and they won by 42! Beat Idaho 56-14.
And now comes Cincinnati, a team that's won 34 of its past 40 games and, much like Indiana, has become something of a media darling in the college football world. They've even done it one better, going unbeaten in the regular season a year ago and playing in a New Year's Six game, losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl 24-21 for their only loss of the season.
This is a huge game, with 2-0 Cincinnati currently a 3.5-point favorite on the SISportsbook.com website. That line has stayed consistent all week long, dropping to 3 points on a few sites, but holding steady on just about all of them on Saturday morning.
I know my lean, but I hear this voice. It's my friend Walter Ego.
You know how this works. I don't gamble on sports myself. Stopped a long time ago after a lifetime worth of bets were already made. But I still have opinions. My pal, Walter Ego, he's the money guy. He listens to me a lot, too. Takes my advice often. Not always, but often.
But this week, he's called me a clown. Called me a fool. Called me, get this, ''myopic.''
Here's why. I've done all my breaking down of this game, and there are three reasons why I think Indiana is primed for the upset. I think they can force Cincinnati into an interception or two, I think Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will be better with intermediate and long passes and, most of all, the huge sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium will be very loud and will make a huge difference in this game.
But Walter, he's calling me a clown, a fool. And calling me ''myopic,'' well, that really hurts, because people are going to have to look that one up.
Walter Ego is all over Cincinnati today. He's got a big stack on the Bearcats, and his sense of reasoning is because they are a very experienced team with a strong defense that won't allow Indiana to get going. He thinks Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder is playing at a high level right now and Indiana's Michael Penix Jr. is not. He argues that Penix might be 100 percent healthy, but he hasn't been 100 percent crisp yet.
Walter Ego has seen that, and he needs proof he's all the way back before his stack of hundos land on the Hoosiers in a matchup against a top-10 team.
Me? I'm standing my ground.
I think Penix will be better today. Even the receivers have said they're getting closer and closer every day, and an explosion is near. I think this will be a knock-down, drag-out Big Ten-like brawl for 60 minutes, and I think the Hoosiers will benefit greatly from the fueling they're going to get from this crowd at sold-out Memorial Stadium
Walter is making a bit too much of that Iowa game, I think. I'm not. Defensively, it was just about a play or two, and that was it. I think the Hoosiers defense rises to the occasion today and keeps Ridder in check. I think the first interception of the season comes today, and maybe more than one.
I think special teams, which went nuts a week ago, makes a play or two in this game, too.
So when the rocks stop rolling, and the voices go silent, here's what I've got:
Indiana 24, Cincinnati 23.
It's going to all come down to finishing off drives for Indiana, and scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals. And it's all about forcing the Bearcats to settle, with Indiana's defense making big plays in the red zone.
This one should be a classic. I'm in.
But, oh, those voices.
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- PARKING LOTS, STADIUM GATES OPENING EARLY: To better accommodate the sell-out crowd for Saturday's at Memorial Stadium, Indiana is opening the parking lots and stadium gates earlier than usual to better handle 50,000-plus fans. CLICK HERE
- CINCINNATI CHASING RARE PLAYOFF SPOT: Luke Fickell has done a tremendous job at Cincinnati the past four-plus year, and the Bearcats are looking to be the first non Power 5 team to make the College Football Playoff. Big nonconference games like Indiana and Notre Dame give them a chance to make some noise. CLICK HERE
- UPDATED BIG TEN POINT SPREADS: Here are the updated point spreads for the 11 Big Ten games this weekend, five of which are against nonconference teams ranked in the top-25 for the first time since 1975. CLICK HERE
- NDIANA GETS JAYLIN WILLIAMS BACK: Indiana has plenty of quality depth at cornerback, but it's still great news that starter Jaylin Williams will be back for Saturday's huge showdown with No. 8 Cincinnati at Memorial Stadium. He was injured in the season opener at Iowa, and didn't play last week against Idaho. CLICK HERE
- HERE'S WHAT MICAH McFADDEN SAID ON WEEKLY PODCAST: Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden broke down last week's win over Idaho, his excitement over the big showdown with No. 8 Cincinnati this week, and he was joined by former Indiana standout Terry Tallen as a guest of the show. CLICK HERE
- IDAHO REPORT CARD: Indiana got a lot of things fixed in its 56-14 win over Idaho, and their grades reflect the improvement. Here's the Week 2 report card. CLICK HERE
- BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS: There's a new No. 1 at the top of the Big Ten power rankings after four-time defending champion Ohio State lost to Oregon last weekend. Is this heaven at No. 1? Nope, it's Iowa. CLICK HERE