Expert College Football Picks: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. TCU Horned Frogs, Saturday Sept. 15, 8 p.m. ET
If I was being petty I would say something like the massive temple of football that is AT&T Stadium is a perfect venue for this game, because it is one of the only buildings big enough to accommodate all of the baggage Ohio State brings with them. But that wouldn't be nice. This preview can't be about the charade that the last month or more has been in Columbus or the commitment to winning above all that the school has. No, that wouldn't be professional of me to mention. It's all about the football and only the football here.
And from a football perspective, this is a fascinating game. Heavily-favored Ohio State has national title aspirations, and they are hungry to brush aside all of the distractions of the year so far and make a big statement under the bright lights here. TCU is a school that is always desperate for the respect they think they deserve - and often do - and pulling off the upset in this one would have a massive aspect on their national profile in the short and longer term. A whole lot is on the line considering these teams aren't exactly rivals.
Ohio State vs. TCU Betting Storylines
For Ohio State, the challenge as bettors here is that there is so much we don't know. Urban Meyer was able to coach the team this week for the first time since the spring game. He can't be on the sideline, but that will still have had an impact - one that we can't measure because we have no precedent. And while Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State's young quarterback and first-year starter, has looked excellent while completing nearly 80 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and just one interception, it has come against Oregon State and Rutgers. You could probably find two Power 5 opponents as bad as that pair - Kansas and Illinois, perhaps - but you couldn't find worse, so we really don't know what Haskins is capable of. Similarly, the team has looked great on the ground, running for more than 300 yards per game on the backs of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, but they aren't going to see holes like they have so far against TCU, so we can't be sure of what their ground game really is. Nick Bosa has been unblockable, but he has also lined up against guys who, on their very best days, have no chance at all of blocking him. We know Bosa will likely be a great player on Sundays one day like his brother, but how ready he is to destroy right now is tougher to know. It goes on and on. We know surprisingly little about this team, and there are more reasons than is typical for us to have questions. Man, that makes them hard to deal with here.
Of course, aside from the coaching stability, it isn't much easier to judge TCU right now, either. They have beaten Southern and SMU, so their schedule has been even softer than Ohio State's. Shawn Robinson is a new starting QB who has looked solid, but he has played against air - and not faced having Nick Bosa in his face. The defense has been outstanding, but of course it should be in this situation. We know that Gary Patterson is an excellent in-game coach, but he sure hasn't had to show much of that this year. Both of these teams have focused as much on not giving anything away through two weeks as anything else. Handicapping any game is about making an educated guess about what you are going to see. In this game, though, the speculation has to be far, far more wild than usual.
Ohio State vs. TCU Odds and Betting Trends
This game opened widely at 13 points with Ohio State favored. After a quick dip as low as 12, it has climbed again, and now TCU is widely a 13.5-point underdog - a number obviously right below the key number of 14. Nearly three-quarters of all bets have been on the much more public Buckeyes, so it is possible that the number will go to and through that key number barring any changes by game time. The total opened as low as 56.5 and has climbed to 60 in early action.
The Buckeyes have covered their last four spreads and are 7-1 ATS in their last eight neutral-site games. Facing a point spread like this - between 10.5 and 21 points - TCU is 7-1 ATS as underdog under Patterson. They are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven nonconference games, though. Ohio State is 4-1-1 lifetime against TCU, but the last meeting came in 1973, so we probably don't need to worry about that too much.
Ohio State vs. TCU Predictions and Picks
Ohio State is the better team. It would be tough to argue with that. But TCU is no slouch, and the Buckeyes have had to deal with a lot. While the headlines out of the first week were that they put 77 points up on Oregon without Urban Meyer, you can't gloss over the fact that they also let the Beavers score 31. There is a vulnerability there. I expect Ohio State to win, but this is a lot of points to give TCU, and there is a decent chance it could go even higher. Every instinct I have tells me to be patient and then jump on TCU at the best price I can.
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