Baver's Buckeye Bag / Ohio State vs Indiana - by Brent Baver

Every week of the college football season, Pencilstorm Buckeye guru answers our questions and yours. Follow and shoot him questions @baverbuckeyebag

Colin: Why did we schedule a conference weeknight road opener and what is the upside?

Brent: I think Gene Smith likes to show that OSU is willing to be a “team player”, where it will do some of the things that lesser B1G programs do, like playing a Thursday night game. In that sense, I think it’s pathetic. Ohio State is the elite of the elite, and should never be playing on a Thursday night. But my guess is that Urban was up for this, in that it gives them 2 extra days to prepare for a top-10 Oklahoma team.

Colin: Lots being made about the OSU D-Line playing more aggressive this year. What's the ceiling for this unit compared to past great Buckeye lines? 

Brent: It’s definitely the deepest unit I have seen here in the 40+ years I have been following Ohio State. Opposing coordinators have to be shaking their heads when they see Nick Bosa and Jalyn Holmes come in as “backups”. And it sounds like DT Dre’Mont Jones has made as much progress as any player on the team, other than maybe Damon Arnette. Not sure the 4 starters are as good as the ’02 foursome of Will Smith, Darion Scott, Kenny Peterson and Tim Anderson, but when you take depth into account, I think it will end up being the best D-line OSU has ever had.

Colin: Could Weber see his job threatened but upstart JK Dobbins? Any other youngsters you expect to have an impact right out of the gate?

Brent: A month ago I would have told you no way, but with Weber’s hamstring and Dobbins huge camp, I now think Dobbins will steal a decent amount of Weber’s carries. It also sounds like Dobbins is ahead of the curve in terms of blocking, a skill Urban demands of his backs and receivers. If healthy, I think Weber will likely remain your #1 guy all year, but he had a recent setback with the hammy. As for other youngsters, Kendall Sheffield is going to get a lot of PT as the 3rd CB. True frosh Jeffrey Okudah and Shawn Wade will push the top 3 corners as the season goes on.

Colin: Guest question from Rob Bumgarner: Can Isiah Prince hold up on the O Line?

Brent: I guess I believe the “he’s turned the corner” talk to an extent, but I still have to see it to really believe it. There has never been a question regarding Prince’s talent, which is part of the reason why he kept his job the entire 2016 season despite his poor protection numbers. The Bucks really, really need Prince to step up if they want to challenge for a Nat’l Title.

Colin: How do you see this game going down?

Brent: My how things have changed with the Hoosiers, as they are not far from having top 5 defense in the league, while their offense may struggle. With a suspect O-line and probably the weakest set of backs in the league, Indiana is going to struggle scoring on an OSU defense that is the class of the B1G. If Indiana is going to have success on O, it will be through the air, as they have a solid QB in Lagow, and a nice set of WRs as long as you add Simmie Cobbs to the group. Cobbs may be held out Thursday night based on a July arrest. I think this one stays tight for awhile, with Ohio State’s depth wearing the Hoosiers down and the Buckeyes covering late. I’ll say Ohio State 35-10.

Colin: It seems like all the smart money is on Bama, Bucks, USC and FSU being the final four. Who of that group is most vulnerable and who do see you see as a sleeper nationally?

Brent: I think USC is the most vulnerable with the expectations now so much higher, and I still question whether Todd Helton is the guy for USC. Not sure you can call Washington a sleeper after making the Playoff a year ago, but few are talking about them this year, as it’s all USC this and USC that. I expect Washington to win the Pac 10 again. A deeper sleeper? Hard for me to choose one as all these teams seem to have material weaknesses, but maybe one out of the group of Miami, Texas, or dare I say it….Michigan.

Colin: Some big match-ups for opening weekend. What other games and lines will you be keeping an eye on?

Brent: It wouldn’t shock me to see the Noles upset Bama, although going against Bama in these early games is usually not smart. I do like FSU catching 7 pts in this one, but think Bama gets the W. By the way, Alabama is 0-3 (outright) in their last 3 games when they haven’t had Lane Kiffin as their OC. The Michigan – Florida game should be an old fashion defensive struggle. I tend to think Michigan pulls this one out, but if you can catch more than a FG, like it is now with the Gators a 3 ½ pt dog, I think you take the points. There is really nothing else that jumps out at me from a betting standpoint in Wk 1.