Michigan-Ohio State Expected to be One of Heaviest Bet Games of Season
by Trevor Whenham - 10/26/2006
I've been a diehard Michigan fan for about 25 years now, which is a fairly odd thing for a guy who grew up in western Canada. It all started when my mom bought me a Michigan sweatshirt when I was a young kid. She only bought it because I would only wear blue at the time, but the colors seeped into my bloodstream and I have been hooked ever since. It's obvious, then, that I am already worked into a frenzy about Michigan's game against Ohio State to end the season, and it's still more than three weeks away. It could be a long month.
Being objective when it concerns Ohio State doesn't come naturally to me, but I will try. Here then is one of the first of many previews of this game that you will be subjected to wherever you turn between now and kickoff.
Each team still has three games remaining before they meet, but those are all but a technicality. Michigan faces Northwestern, Ball State and Indiana, three powerhouses that combine for an 8-16 record. Ohio State has to find a way to get past Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern and their combined 7-17 mark. If either team loses before their match-up it will be an embarrassment that it will take years for the program to overcome.
With Ohio State at No. 1 in the BCS standings and Michigan at No. 2, the stakes are both totally clear and incredibly high - the winner of the game goes to the National Championship Game, likely as heavy favorites. These two teams hate each other as it is, so with this much on the line on Nov. 18 both Columbus and Ann Arbor are at risk of exploding.
>From a betting perspective, this game will be huge. Bodog is expecting it to be one of the biggest games of the NCAA regular season. Even with all the hype it likely won't have as much action as the bigger bowl games will, but it will dwarf most games that have been played so far. The only other games that will approach the handle of this game will be other match-ups between top ten teams, including Ohio State's victory over Texas in week two of the season. Big handles are nothing new when these teams match-up at the end of every season. The games almost always have major repercussions, and the rivalry is so intense that bettors are drawn to it.
You would be hard pressed to argue that these aren't the two best teams in the country, but they get things done in very different ways. There are similarities - both teams demolished a top program in out of conference play, they've both easily handled the best that the Big Ten can throw at them (though Ohio State avoided Wisconsin this year), and neither team has been particularly threatened late in a game. Beyond that the only major similarity is their records.
Ohio State likes to score and score often. The Buckeyes have only scored less than 30 points twice, and they still won both those games by at least three scores. They put their foot on the offensive throttle and don't let up until the final gun sounds. They have an incredible, explosive offense and they don't care who sees it. Their defense is better than expected, but they win by totally outclassing teams offensively. Michigan, on the other hand, tends to score enough to let people know that they won easily, but no more. Michigan has covered their last four games by an average of just 2.5 points, while Ohio State has covered in their last four against the spread wins by an average of more than 11.
Both teams have had a habit at times of letting their opponents stay closer than they should for longer than they should. Ohio State was only up 7-3 over Indiana after a quarter last weekend, while Michigan was tied at three with Iowa 38 minutes into the game. The teams break out of their funks very differently, however. Ohio State kicks into gear and piles on the points until the opposition gives up, while Michigan wears down their opponents with relentless defense until their spirits are broken.
Ohio State has a good defense, and Michigan's offense has been balanced and effective, especially when Mario Manningham is healthy, but the outcome of the game will have little to do with either of those units. Instead, it will be a clash of the titans - Troy Smith and his many weapons against a defense that rarely gets fooled. Whichever side blinks first will lose. Smith will face more pressure than he has seen all year, and he likely won't be able to establish the run to ease the pressure. Michigan will face a more explosive offense than they have seen since Notre Dame, and Ohio State is probably more consistently scary than the Irish are when they have the ball. You can have your own theory about which side will prevail, but there is no true way of knowing until they hit the field.
One thing that likely isn't going to happen to Michigan is what happened to them the last time they faced Smith, or when they faced Vince Young in the Rose Bowl the year before. In both cases they were completely embarrassed by a mobile quarterback that could exploit their weaknesses, and in both cases the Wolverines helped to launch a quarterback onto the national stage. There is no question that their defense is as good as it is this year because of their inadequacies in those two games. They have been rebuilt specifically to win this game.
Ohio State will be at home and they will take the field as the favorite, but that may not mean much. In their biggest games - Ohio State over Texas and Michigan over Notre Dame - the two teams both won on enemy soil as underdogs.