Akron Zips (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Week 1 NCAA Football, Saturday, September 3, 2011, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Wis., TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Akron +34/OSU -34
Over/Under Total: 48
After perhaps the worst offseason a college football program could ever imagine, the 18th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will try and make everyone forget for a few hours how bad it really was when they host the Akron Zips in the Horseshoe of Ohio Stadium in Saturdays season opener on ESPN.
If youve been living under a rock and dont know what has happened in Columbus these past seven or eight months, lets just say that the Luke Fickell era at Ohio State will begin on Saturday when the former defensive coordinator takes over the reigns of the Buckeyes. You can Google the details.
Fickell shouldnt have too much trouble getting his first win as a head coach against the Zips, who struggled mightily in coach Rob Ianellos first season ending with a 1-11 record. There is really no where to go but up for Akron, but after losing 18 seniors and nine starters the Zips will have their work cut out for them as they try to turn things around quickly in 2011.
While a majority of the sports betting public might have already written the Buckeyes off in 2011, the oddsmakers out in Las Vegas arent fooled by the turmoil. When the opening betting line for this game was announced the Buckeyes were listed as 32.5-points favorites, and thats even before Ohio State announced who was going to be the starting quarterback. With the announcement that senior Joe Bauserman had won the QB job a few days ago, the Buckeyes have moved up to 34-point favorites at most of the offshore sportsbooks as the money is starting to roll in on the Buckeyes.
The over/under total opened at 48, but with all of the uncertainty at QB a lot of sportsbooks have taken the total off the board completely. The few sportsbooks that are still listing a total are currently sitting right at the same 48 number, waiting for action at the window to make it move one way or another.
With Bauserman now named the starter the Buckeyes have finally allowed bettors to assess the full status of the Ohio State offense. We already know that the Buckeyes leading rusher (Daniel Herron), leading receiver (DeVier Posey) and top offensive lineman (Mike Adams) will all miss the game due to their involvement in the tattoo scandal, so Bauserman will not have his full cache of weapons to rely on getting him through his first start.
We dont really know a whole lot about what the Zips will do on offense either, because Akron graduated their top two rushers, top two receivers and two-fifths of its offensive line after last years one-win season. To make things even more unclear, junior college transfer Clayton Moore won the battle for the Zips starting quarterback job (over Patrick Nicely) in spring and summer practice, so we have very little to look at from a Zips offense that only averaged 15 points a game last year.
With just four returning starters on defense, Ohio State will still be formidable but even that is somewhat unknown. But the perennially strong unit will reload from the trough of talent they have standing on the sideline, and they will try and keep the streak of not allowing more than 15 points per game, a streak that started back in the 2004 season.
Akrons defense gets seven starters back from a unit that allowed 430 yards and 35 points a game last year. Some of that can be attributed to their poor offense always going three-and-out, but with a secondary that allowed over 264 yards a game passing (in the MAC nonetheless), even Bauserman could put up Heisman numbers in his debut. The Zips secondary will be without its best player too, as safety ShelDon Miller was moved forward and converted to linebacker in the spring.
The Buckeyes havent lost in one of these in-state non-conference games since 1921, so you can bet the farm it probably wont happen on Saturday either. But the last time Akron traveled to the Shoe they did cash in a few tickets, covering as 27-point underdogs in a, 20-2, loss back in 2007 despite only mustering three first downs and 99 yards of total offense. Five turnovers and five penalties by the Buckeyes helped to contribute to the Zips cover at the window too.
The closing total of 47 was never in risk of going over as the Buckeyes only led 3-2 at half (yes, 3-2), and didnt pull ahead by more than one score until late in the fourth quarter.
If youre looking to wager on a betting trend for this game, you might have to put your faith in Bauserman and the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is 7-0 ATS in their last seven games in September and 10-1 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games. The Buckeyes are also 4-1 ATS in their last five games against a team from the MAC Conference. Akron on the other hand is 1-4 ATS in their last five non-conference games and just 1-5 ATS when playing the big boys on their schedule in September.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Despite all the off-season issues, OSU will likely dominate the game, however, -32 and above favorites only cover about 35% of the time, so we are betting on the Zips here.
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