Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes, Saturday Nov. 26, Noon ET
This is what this rivalry is supposed to be all about — one game that will determine not only the state of the Big Ten but also will play prominently into the national title picture. A truly epic matchup. It’s about time, too. Thanks to the struggles of the Rodriguez and Hoke years, Michigan has not done their part to make this game much of a game at all over the last several years. Now, though, it feels like a battle of titans again for the first time in almost a decade. It is the first time in too long that you can close your eyes and realistically imagine either team winning — at least the first time you can do it without some highly-illegal stimulants helping you out.
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At times this year both teams have looked like the best in the country. At others they have exposed their vulnerabilities in a big way. If you don’t like what this game offers, and what it has the chance to be, then you just don’t like college football.
Michigan at Ohio State Betting Storylines
Neither team comes into this one at their absolute best. Playing in the harshest of northern wintery conditions on Saturday, both teams tried hard to lose games they had no business losing. Ohio State left East Lansing with a single-point victory and only got that because Michigan State, which was completely inept on offense much of the day, tried and failed a two-point conversion on their late touchdown and then couldn’t drive into field goal range on the final possession despite having the clock in their favor. Michigan’s game against Indiana wasn’t so close, but it was only in the final 20 minutes that they put it away. Up until then a hopeless passing game in the hands of backup QB John O’Korn allowed the Hoosiers to hang much tighter than is ideal. You can argue that the teams were looking ahead past outmatched opponents to the biggest game of the year for both, and that probably is a factor, but both games left their opponents with insights into what can be done to cause disruption.
The quarterback position is a story here, but not in the way that either team would hope. The conditions weren’t good on Saturday, but J.T. Barrett was just plain bad. He completed just 10 of 22, and several of those misses were major misses. He came into the season as a Heisman favorite, and at times he has looked it — he was brilliant against Oklahoma — but too often this year he has looked hesitant and hasn’t been a positive for his team. We know he is capable of dominating this game, but against a defense as good as Michigan’s it’s hard to be truly confident he’ll be a positive force. Michigan has woes at the position, too. Starter Wilton Speight was injured late in the Iowa game and was terrible throughout the loss. He had been strong up to that point, so his poor performance was a mystery. Reports were that he was lost for the season with a non-throwing shoulder injury. Now things are less clear, though, The team hasn’t said anything official, and they won’t, but reports are bubbling that Speight could be ready to go. If not then O’Korn, the Houston transfer, will get the nod again He looked mostly lousy on Saturday, though a 30-yard scramble in the third quarter was what keyed the team to get their act together and win. He is capable of being much better, and he will have to be to beat the Buckeyes.
It’s worth taking a moment to look at the greater implications of this game. And they are huge. With a win Michigan wins the division and will be favored to win the Big Ten title and head to the playoff. If Ohio State wins then things are less clear. Penn State hosts Michigan State. If they beat the Spartans — and everyone else has, so they should — then an 11-1 Penn State would beat an 11-1 Ohio State to win the division because the Lions won head-to-head. Michigan crushed Penn State, so they have the tiebreak advantage there. If Penn State won the division and the conference, you would have to imagine that the Big Ten would have a good look at two playoff spots because Ohio State would be tough for the committee to pass up given the chaos among the top contenders lately.
Michigan at Ohio State Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Ohio State favored by 7.5 at home. That fell very quickly, and the game widely opened at 7 points. It has since fallen to 6.5 in early action. A small majority of bets have been placed on the Buckeyes, so the movement suggests that sharp money is on the Wolverines early on.
The Wolverines are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall — all conference games. They are, however, 5-0 ATS in their last five road games against teams with winning home records. The Buckeyes are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games — also all conference games — but are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home games. Michigan is 2-5 ATS in their last seven in Columbus and 2-7 ATS in their last nine against Ohio State.
Michigan at Ohio State Predictions and Picks
I have never hidden my Michigan obsession, so take what I say here with a grain of salt if you must. This pick comes from as much a place of objectivity as it possibly can, though — Michigan is the right bet, and they are worth a look on the moneyline at this price as well. The defense is going to play very well here — as they have all year. Barrett will struggle to get anything going through the air against the best secondary in the conference (at least), and he will be uncomfortable thanks to a very deep and dangerous defensive line. The Buckeyes will not score points in bulk. Michigan’s offense is three weeks removed from a strong performance, but I like their matchup against Ohio State’s defense better than the opposite, and I give them a better chance of success. Michigan is hungry, and they have a more experienced roster when it comes to this lineup. They will have to work hard to contain Mike Weber and Ohio State’s running game, and they will have to hope that the QB play from whoever plays is better than it has been the last two game. Still, Michigan is positioned well here and is the pick.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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