Ohio State Buckeyes at Oklahoma Sooners, Saturday Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. ET
This is a whale of a game for the third week of the season. Unfortunately, it's not nearly as good as it could have been if Oklahoma hadn't already suffered a loss at the hands of Houston on the opening weekend. It's still a massive game, though. Oklahoma's national title hopes are dim, but they will die an early death with a loss in this one. Ohio State, meanwhile, could use a statement nonconference win just in case the Big Ten doesn't remain as strong as it has looked to start and the team needs some style points to help their playoff case. These are the kind of games that fans crave during nonconference season - especially when they aren't played on a gimmicky neutral field.
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Ohio State at Oklahoma Betting Storylines
The biggest challenge in handicapping this game is that we functionally know nothing about Ohio State. They have looked very strong in their two openers - scoring 125 points and not looking even remotely tested since a pick six on the opening drive of the season caused some short-term panic for Buckeye fans. They have played only a Bowling Green team going through a big coaching change and a loss of talent and a Tulsa team that is just lousy. In short, they haven't played anyone. They are a young team making a shocking number of changes to the starting lineup after most of last year's starters headed to the NFL. They have looked fine in glorified scrimmages, but this is the first true live fire they will face, and it's tough to tell how they will respond. The defense is getting a lot of praise, having allowed just six defensive points in two games, but when it comes against those offenses the asterisk that goes beside the result is massive. Whether you are with them or against them, handicapping this team requires a massive leap of faith.
It's not like it is easy to handicap Oklahoma, either. At any times in the opener against Houston they looked like the moment was just a little too big for them. Their offense is very strong, but they were tentative too often there - as if they were overthinking what was to come. In Week 2, though, they looked like an entirely different offense - albeit against lowly Louisiana-Monroe. They were faster, more balanced, and just far more dangerous. The offense we saw against Houston isn't going to win this game. The offense we saw last week, though, will make this one very interesting. So, was the problem that Houston did things that Oklahoma couldn't handle - things that Ohio State could replicate? Or was it that the Sooners were in their own heads, Baker Mayfield was trying to be a star with every throw instead of letting things develop as they must, and the team can be much more dangerous in the comfort of their home stadium with their heads in the right place? Your answer to that question will pretty much entirely determine how you bet this game.
Ohio State at Oklahoma Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened widely with Ohio State favored by two points, and it stayed steady at that level until taking a midweek drop down to one widely, with pick even available in spots. More than three of every four bets have been on the Buckeyes, so this movement is a very clear and strong sign that sharp action has been hitting Oklahoma hard. The total opened at 64.5 and has fallen slightly to 64 at this point.
The Buckeyes are 4-0 ATS in their last four games and 5-1 ATS in their last six against the Big 12. They are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 nonconference games and an impressive 40-16-1 ATS in their last 57 road games. The Sooners are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 September games but just 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall, and they haven't covered a spread in their last four nonconference games.
Ohio State at Oklahoma Predictions and Picks
I rarely struggle to pick a team as much as I have in this one. Oklahoma looked vulnerable in their opener. But Ohio State is so raw and untested. Oklahoma has a big advantage playing at home. But this Ohio State has no shortage of big-game experience and will be ready for the challenge they face. Oklahoma has excellent coaching. But Ohio State has better coaching. You can't go wrong by picking either quarterback - both could easily wind up in New York for the Heisman ceremony in December. When I can't easily pick a side then the smart thing is not to pick one. The play here is the total. I trust both defenses and expect the game to go "under" 64.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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