Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1 SU, 4-7 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (9-2 SU, 6-5 ATS)
NCAA Week 12
Date/Time: November 28th/12pm ET
Where: Michigan Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OSU -1/MICH +1
Over/Under Total: 45
Wow, cant believe it is Thanksgiving time already, seems like just yesterday that we were getting ramped up for the first week of the NCAA schedule but here we are already in the final regular season week. For the Big Ten Conference, that last line on the schedule means rivalry week and there is no more noteworthy rivalry in all of College Football than Ohio State v. Michigan. For some, this is simply referred to as The Game and while there are always postseason and championship goals for these programs, the outcome of this game is off the charts in terms of importance no matter what else is at stake.
There are a few games in each year that give Vegas and the online betting sites some issues and this appears one of them as the opening line that had Michigan as 2.5 point underdogs was immediately bet all the way through a pickem and now the Wolverines sit as 1 point favorites. You can find a few listings that swing this line a half point in either direction so keep a close eye on the board at your betting outlet to see what moves come about as people continue to bet through the week. My guess is that this game lands at a pickem by the time you are eating leftover turkey.
This is officially the 112th meeting between the schools in a rivalry that dates back to 1897. There have already been 112 games played but Ohio State has vacated the 2010 season so we should all just pretend that Buckeyes won that year like the NCAA wants us to, right? OSU enters the week riding a three game winning streak and has won nine of the last ten meetings straight up. Ohio State is 6-2 against the spread in the last eight between the schools with a 4-1 ATS mark in the last five in Ann Arbor. Michigan has played well against quality opponents of late, going 5-2 against the spread in their last seven against teams with winning records.
If you didnt know, the sky is falling in Columbus. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan State last week in what was the ugliest game in the Urban Meyer era and while all winning streaks come to an end, this loss was particularly damaging. The Buckeyes managed just five first downs, 132 total yards and went 4-for-14 on 3rd down against the Spartans and still almost won. They should have rolled a MSU team playing without Connor Cook but the offense could simply do nothing. Even Heisman candidate Ezekial Elliott underperformed with just 33 rushing yards. Elliott spouted off after the game and said he was punching his ticket to the NFL, so there was obviously a lot of emotion tied up in what OSU was trying to accomplish. All teams have bad games, the question now is how does Ohio State respond given their dreams of another national championship are likely gone. Michigan might very well prove to be the perfect opponent to avoid a hangover performance as it wont take much to motivate the Buckeyes to go into the Big House and take out their frustrations on their biggest enemy.
Michigan has been rolling since the special teams disaster that saw them lose to Michigan State. The Wolverines have won four straight games since then and while they havent looked great in every one of those wins, it is clear that the Michigan players have bought in to Harbaughs plans and the results have been positive. Michigan has one of the best defenses in the country, ranking 4th in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game while surrendering just 14.9 points per contest. The offense can be pedestrian for the most part but Jake Rudock has given the Wolverines a capable playmaker at the QB position and his play against OSUs 6th ranked pass defense will be a swing factor in this game. Possessing one of the best names in all of football, Jake Butt is drawing comparisons to top NFL tight ends and will be a matchup problem for the Buckeyes, especially in the redzone. Butt and Jehu Chesson have accounted for ten of Rudocks passing touchdowns while Amara Darboh leads the team in catches and yards. DeVeon Smith is a no-nonsense runner that fits the grinding Michigan run-style but the Bucks are stout against the run as well so again, the responsibility to move the ball will fall on the passing game as Michigan doesnt often get big chunks on the ground.
Despite the very poor showing last week, OSU has been a solid offensive unit for the balance of the year. They average 230 rushing yards per game and utilize their playmakers in a variety of ways en route to 34.4 points per game. Elliott leads that rushing attack with 1,458 yards and 17 touchdowns but J.T. Barrett runs from the QB spot and former-QB Braxton Miller gets carries as a wide receiver as well as catching passes. That versatility and willingness to utilize somewhat unconventional play-calling makes OSU a tough offense to scheme against but Michigan only allows 100 rushing yards per game and they can take many of the same paths that led Michigan State to success last week. It is clearly incumbent on Barrett to do something more in the passing game or Michigan will load up to stop the run and make it somewhat easy to take away OSUs running threat. One would expect the Buckeye coaching staff to make quick and meaningful adjustments to get the passing game some momentum and give Ohio State that dual threat that makes them almost unstoppable when they execute well.
The Ohio State pedigree even just under Urban Meyer is pretty epic and they have rag-dolled Michigan for the last decade. This game is going to be super-interesting to watch in the coming years as Michigan develops under Harbaugh and his recruits become contributors but I think they are still at least one year away from taking out the Buckeyes. The Wolverines are improved and a solid overall team but they have struggled against some lesser competition in wins and have lost every game where they werent the best team on paper. They are not the best team on paper this weekend and are favored. Im not going to overthink that. The opening line of OSU -2.5 feels about right so Im certainly taking the Buckeyes at +1 or a pickem. I think the Ohio State players get the perfect opponent to channel their emotions on and come up with a much better performance on offense while Michigan falters against the nations 2nd best scoring defense. I think it will be close but it wont be a thriller as OSU is in control for the most part and comes away with a 24-16 win.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Ohio State
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