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Cal Golden Bears vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Point Spread - Pick

California Bears (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 15th, 2012/12:00 p.m. EST
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Cal +17/OSU -17
Over/Under Total: 52.5

The 12th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will look to keep romping through the early non-Big 10 season when they welcome the California Bears of the PAC-12 into the Horseshoe of Ohio Stadium Saturday on ABC.

The Buckeyes and new coach Urban Meyer’s offense continues to look like the perfect style of play for sophomore Braxton Miller, as Miller ran for 141 yards and three scores and added 155 yards and a touchdown passing in Ohio State’s, 31-16, win over Central Florida last Saturday. Through two games Miller and the Buckeyes offense has scored 87 points, and with a California team that gave up 31 points to Southern Utah last week coming to the Shoe, that number is sure to grow.

California did score their first win of the season last week against that Southern Utah squad, 50-31, and to be fair, 14 of the 31 points they gave up came in the final five minutes of play in mop-up time. But the Bears were outplayed and upset by Nevada in their opener two weeks ago (31-24, Nevada scored game-winner with 44 seconds left), so it’s not so encouraging that the Bears needed three quarters to put away the T-Birds from the FCS one week after a “mid-major” dumped them in their opener.

With the Buckeyes clearly improving and the Bears struggling out of the gate, oddsmakers set the opening point spread for Saturday’s Big 10-PAC-12 clash with Ohio State as 13.5-point favorites at home. But after a few hours of money raining in on the Buckeyes, the number quickly shot up to -17 at most sportsbooks as fans are equally in love with the new Buckeyes and are running away in droves from Cal.

The over/under total is only live at a few of the bigger sportsbooks on the Internet so far like 5Dimes, but the scant few that are open are listing 52.5 as the opening total.

I have to say I am a bit surprised by the low-50s total, because as mentioned previously, Cal is having a hell of a time stopping anyone on defense right now. The Buckeyes Miller is quickly turning into one of the best duel-threat QBs in the college game, and the fact that the Bears have given up 220 yards rushing (3.9 per carry) to Nevada and 103 yards (3.9 per) to Southern Utah doesn’t exactly build confidence that they’re going to stop the Buckeyes ground attack by Saturday.

Meanwhile, Cal should be able to get its offense going since both QB Zach Maynard and his half-brother WR Keenan Allen are back for the Bears. However, the Buckeyes should also be able to stop Cal easily by doubling Allen and pressuring Maynard. When and if that becomes the case, the Bears will desperately need RB Isi Sofele (104 yards, TD) to get big yards on early downs if the Bears hope to move the chains with consistency.

Plus, chances are the game could get a little sloppy. Ohio State had three turnovers and 10 penalties last week against Central Florida. While Cal has had 19 penalties and four turnovers in their two games thus far.

These two schools have never met on the gridiron, so there is no history to use to handicap this contest. However, there are a few betting trends to note for this game to use as a guide.

Cal has had success versus Big 10 teams in the past (5-1 ATS in L6), but they’ve also struggled in non-conference games (1-4 ATS in L5 ) and on the road (2.8 ATS in L10). Ohio State on the other hand has been solid versus the PAC-12 in past seasons (8-1-1 ATS in L10), and since most of their non-conference games are played at home in the Horseshoe their non-conference record (12-4 ATS in L16) is also pretty stellar.

The over/under trends depend on which team you follow. Cal is stocked full of over trends (over is 6-1 vs. Big 10; 6-2 in non-conf.), while Ohio State is the team full of under trends (under is 6-2 in non-conf.; 6-2 vs. PAC-12).

Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The college football season has already been filled with improbable upsets this year, but I just don’t think the Bears have a strong enough defense to go on the road and beat the Buckeyes in the Shoe. I really like the over of 52.5 for this game, but I also think the Buckeyes will prevail in the end and cover the number at home. Take Ohio State minus the 17 points.

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