No. 21 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0 SU, 2-3 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time: Saturday, October 6th, 2012/8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Neb. +3.5/OSU -3.5
Over/Under Total: 58
If the 12th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are going to “win” the Big Ten Conference title this season in a year when they can’t really win the title, then this Saturday’s game at the Horse Shoe of Ohio Stadium against the 21st-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers has become thee game of the season for Buckeyes everywhere.
With last week’s 17-16 stunner on the road at Michigan State, the Buckeyes have now positioned themselves perfectly for the primetime affair on Saturday Night. With an underrated defense that held Michigan State and Le’Veon Bell to 34 yards rushing, and a dynamic playmaker at QB in Braxton Miller (136 rush, 179 pass vs. Mich St.) on offense, if the Buckeyes can beat the Cornhuskers at home this week they could be a top-10 team (and only ranked Big Ten team) until a late November showdown with rival Michigan.
Nebraska is coming off a good comeback win over the Wisconsin Badgers at home, 30-27, but as 11-point favorites going into the game I guess you can say the Huskers are still underachieving. Nebraska grinded away on the ground versus Wisconsin (259 yards, 5.6 ypc), a formula they’ll have to replicate in order to be successful on the road in Buckeye’s territory on Saturday.
Not that a game between two ranked teams, one of them still undefeated but on probation, needs extra drama surrounding it, but the way the opening point spread took a quick turn will make this game even more compelling.
With an eye still fixed on the Buckeyes big win over Michigan State, oddsmakers originally opened the line with Ohio St. as 5-point favorites at home. Early (sharp) money instantly poured in on Nebraska by the thousands, making most sportsbooks across the Internet and in Las Vegas scramble in the first few hours and drop it to minus -3.5 to try and stop the steam. Some offshore sportsbooks are still dropping it to minus -3, but for the most part it looks like Ohio St. will be around a 3.5-point favorite at home by kickoff.
The few offshore sportsbooks already taking wagers on the over/under total for this game are listing the number at 57.5 or 58, but it’s still early so there’s been no line movement yet.
Offensively, these are two of the more lopsided, run-heavy teams in major college football.
For years Cornhusker QB Taylor Martinez has been a run-only threat, and the Huskers attack is still schemed that way (306 ypg rushing - 5th in FBS), but for the first time in his career Martinez is throwing the ball with accuracy (67.8 %) and poise (11-to-1 TD-INT). With RB Ameer Abdullah (486 yards, 6 TD) emerging as a solid one-two punch with Rex Burkhead in the option, the Cornhuskers will certainly continue to try and win games at the line of scrimmage with the running game.
But Ohio State is also a run-option heavy team (224 ypg - 21st) that has controlled the line of scrimmage in every game this year, including an impressive performance last week in East Lansing. Quarterback Braxton Miller is still way too much of the Buckeyes offense (up to 577 rushing, 933 passing, 15 combined TD), but he’s also quickly becoming one of the best duel-threat QBs in the college game under new coach Urban Meyer’s scheme.
With both teams stacking the box to stop the run this week the running QB that throws the ball on third down the best is going to turn this game, the problem is that it’s a coin flip whether or not it will be Martinez or Miller. That was the case in last year’s, 34-27, Cornhusker win in Lincoln, a third-down battle Martinez and Nebraska (7-for-15) won when Miller (Ohio St. 5-for-13) was only a few games into his true freshman season.
Miller is a better player now, and Meyer’s scheme is a better scheme for him, so this is not as clean an advantage as you would think the older junior Martinez would enjoy.
Nebraska has struggled in Big Ten play (1-3-1 ATS in L5), especially on the road (0-3-1 ATS in L4), so all of the early money that poured in on them is going against the betting trends.
Ohio State hasn’t been a lock as a home team in the Horse Shoe lately, going 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games despite a tradition (43-18-1 ATS) of dominating Big Ten play.
The under is also a trend play, with it going 5-2 in Nebraska’s last seven Big Ten games and 9-3 in the Buckeyes last 12 games versus teams with a winning record. Not exactly bet the house material, but a trend nonetheless.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Until Nebraska wins on the road in the Big 10, I’m going to have to lean the other way. Ohio State is still a very good team, and Miller is the best player on the field, so I have no problems eating the chalk here and going against the line move. I’m betting Ohio St. minus 3.5-points.
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