Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Point Spread and Pick Agains the Spread – Betting Odds

Marshall Thundering Herd (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Buckeyes (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), Week 1 College Football, 7:30 p.m. EST, Thursday, September 2,
2010, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, TV: Big Ten Network

by Badger of

Point Spread: Marshall +28.5/Ohio State -28.5
Over/Under: 47

The 2nd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes kick off what they hope will be a
title-contending year on opening night Thursday when they welcome the
Marshall Thundering Herd into the Horseshoe of Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

With quarterback Terrelle Pryor entering his third season running the
Buckeyes offense, and one of the strongest front-sevens in the NCAA
leading the Buckeyes defense, Ohio State is one of the short
favorites to challenge for a BCS Championship birth. Obviously, a lot
seems to be riding on this season in Columbus.

The Thundering Herd rides into the Horseshoe with a new head coach,
Doc Holliday, who was brought in despite the fact the Herd went 7-6
last season in Conference USA and beat Ohio in the Little Caesars
Pizza Bowl for an eighth win. With 12 starters back from that squad,
Holliday is expected to hit the ground running with a good team, but
an upset in his first game at Marshall might be too dreamy for the Herd.

Ohio State is favored in this game by just over four touchdowns, as
most offshore sportsbooks are listing the Buckeyes as 28.5-point favorites. But there are a few sportsbooks showing minus-29 on their
board and even one at 29.5 (Las Vegas Hilton), so the number seems to be rising as the action at the window increases.

The over/under total is currently listed at a modest 47, up a few
points from where it opened at 45.5, so early wagering has caused the
total to go up too.

For the Buckeyes to do what everyone expects them to do this season
they need Pryor to play like he did in the Rose Bowl win over Oregon
(266 yards, 2 TD, 72 rush yards), and less like he did in losses to
Iowa (93 yards passing, 29 yards rushing, 0 TD) and Purdue (221
yards, 2 INT).

A cleaned up knee should make him a little shiftier on the option-
read, but Pryor needs to improve at several facets of the passing
game (56.6 comp. %, 18-11 TD-to-INT) for the Buckeyes to take
advantage of defensive mismatches because 103rd in the nation passing
(173.6 ypg) just isnt going to cut it.

What should make this game interesting, at least early in the game,
is the fact that Marshall actually boasts a strong defense. Ends
Vinny Curry and Michael Janac are very capable of causing problems
off the edge in passing situations, which might force Pryor up in the
pocket and make him move his feet. If the Herd can stop the run on
early downs, their pass rush could keep this game closer than most
people (i.e. 28.5-point spread) think its going to be.

The Marshall defense will be forced to keep the team in the game
because the Herd offense will likely struggle. Even though QB Brian
in back as the starter from last season, its a new spread-
offense system under new coach Holliday so you might as well call
him a rookie again. Plus, his 14-to-13 TD-to-Interception ratio isnt
exactly awe-inspiring.

Add the fact that their top running back, Andre Booker, was a receiver last year and you have an entirely raw backfield forced to
go up against the Buckeyes and their front-seven. The Herd did
average 206.4 yards passing (77th) and 142.7 yards rushing (65th)
last season, and theyll get to those numbers again this year just
not against the Buckeyes.

Marshall last played at the Horseshoe back in 2004, nearly pulling
off the upset before eventually falling 24-21. Two Justin Zwick-to-
Santonio Holmes touchdowns gave the Buckeyes just enough cushion to
survive a late scare by the Herd, who came into the game as 16.5-
point underdogs.

The betting trends for the game are conflicting, so it becomes a matter of which way you fall in handicapping this game. If you like
Marshall to cover, youll like the fact that the Herd is 4-1 ATS in
their last five road games. But if youre a Buckeye, Ohio States 5-1
ATS record at the Shoe in the last six and their 4-0 ATS record in
their last four non-conference games trumps everything Marshall and
then some.

The under wager has the strongest trends, going 5-1 in the Herds last six non-conference games and 8-2 in their last 10 road games; while
the under is 4-0 in the Buckeyes last four non-conference tilts, 7-2
in September and 9-2-1 in their last 12 games overall.

Badgers Pick: My gut tells me that Marshalls defense is good enough
to keep the Thundering Herd within four touchdowns, but even so Im
staying away from the side bet here with the huge spread. It may take
awhile for the Buckeyes to pull away, so Im playing the under of 47
here as defense rules the Horseshoe on Thursday night. Take the under
of 47.