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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction

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Coming off a 6-7 season that included a two-point loss to Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl, the Indiana Hoosiers approach the 2017 college football season full of optimism. Fourteen starters return — five on offense, nine on defense — and the program is coming off two consecutive bowl seasons for the first time since 1990-91.

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Adding intrigue is the presence on the Ohio State sideline of former Indiana head coach-turned-Buckeyes offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Kevin Wilson. Wilson was forced out as the Hoosiers' head coach in December, as Indiana elevated defensive coordinator Tom Allen to the top spot. The mere fact that Ohio State had hired Indiana's former head coach was always going to be a discussion point; the fact that Indiana and Ohio State are facing off against each other in the first game of their respective seasons has elevated it to the top storyline.

Ohio State comes into this game with plenty to prove. Despite lofty rankings by the national media and high expectations from its fan base, the last national image that college football fans have of the Buckeyes is a 31-0 shutout loss at the hands of eventual national champion Clemson in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will be eager to adjust the national perception of the Buckeyes, and this primetime game at Indiana will be as good a place as any to start in 2017.

Ohio State at Indiana

Kickoff: Thursday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ohio State -21

Three Things to Watch

1. Indiana's passing game vs. Ohio State's pass defense

The aforementioned Kevin Wilson was respected for being able to vary his game plans based on personnel. Tom Allen hired Mike DeBord as the new offensive coordinator, bringing DeBord in from Tennessee. While DeBord has extensive coaching experience, it will bear watching to see how many changes have been made from Wilson's offense to what DeBord prefers.

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Countering the Indiana passing offense will be a revamped Ohio State secondary. Three new starters will be manning the defensive backfield for the Buckeyes, and it will be an immediate challenge for these talented, albeit inexperienced, players on the road versus Hoosier wide receivers such as Nick Westbrook, Luke Timian, and possibly Simmie Cobbs.

2. Ohio State's passing game vs. Indiana's pass defense

Ohio State returns quarterback J.T. Barrett but will be breaking in new starters at wide receiver. Players such as Austin Mack, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, and Parris Campbell are all talented but have yet to establish themselves. A big reason why Kevin Wilson was brought on board was to revitalize a Ohio State passing offense that had become stagnant over the past two seasons.

College Football Top 25: Ohio State QB

Indiana will do its very best to disrupt the Ohio State passing game. Cornerback Rashard Fant headlines a secondary that improved tremendously in 2016. Fant could find himself in single coverage opportunities if coach Tom Allen believes he can handle it.

3. Home crowd factor

As strange as this may sound, Indiana coach Tom Allen has made no secret that he believes that this game is “the biggest home opener in the history of Indiana football.” Indiana always is excited whenever the Buckeyes come to town, but the mere fact that ESPN's "College GameDay" will be on hand, with a national television audience, is only adding fuel to the fire. Ohio State fans travel well for this game, but it will be important for the Buckeyes to come out and do what they can to take the crowd out of the game.

Final Analysis

Ohio State has not lost to Indiana in Bloomington since 1988, a 41-7 drubbing during the first year of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper's tenure. Indiana has come close to defeating Ohio State since that time, with the closest being a 34-27 game in 2015 that came down to the final play.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

Indiana will be able to hang with Ohio State during the first half, as the talent on hand will not be intimidated by the Buckeyes. In the second half, look for Ohio State to begin wearing the Hoosiers down physically, as the Buckeyes have too much depth and speed for the Hoosiers to keep pace.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Indiana 17

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is writing and podcasting for www.theozone.net. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.