Ohio State (5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS) can clinch a trip to the Big Ten championship game if it can beat Michigan (2-4, 1-5) for the ninth straight time. The Buckeyes opened as 30-point favorites, the largest point spread between these rivals in decades.
Opening Odds Analysis
This is just the fourth time in the last dozen years that the Wolverines have been underdogs of 20 points or more. In fact, we haven’t seen a point spread this high between these two rivals since at least 1978, when the FBS and FCS split into separate divisions. Ohio State was a 9-point favorite when the teams met last year in Michigan.
Michigan News & Notes
This game will conclude what’s been a nightmare season in Michigan, both on and off the field. After opening the year with an impressive 49-24 rout of Minnesota, Jim Harbaugh’s bunch has lost four of its last five, with the only victory coming in overtime against Rutgers and each of the last three losses coming by double digits.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Michigan has had to endure a COVID-19 breakout throughout the team that forced the cancelation of last week’s game against Maryland.
With at least a dozen players testing positive for the virus, Michigan won’t have been able to practice until Monday at the earliest. The Wolverines could also be without their top two quarterbacks, Joe Milton and Cade McNamara, due to injuries. If neither is able to return against Ohio State, true freshman Dan Villari may be forced into his first career start.
Saturday could be Harbaugh’s final chance to beat Ohio State with rumors swirling that the Michigan coach is eyeing a return to the pros. Harbaugh is 0-5 SU and 2-3 ATS in five games against the Buckeyes, including three losses by 23 points or more.
Ohio State News & Notes
The Buckeyes have been battling COVID-19 issues of their own, but you wouldn’t know it by the scoreboard last week. Without head coach Ryan Day and 23 players, Ohio State crushed Michigan State 52-12 on Saturday in East Lansing, easily covering as three-touchdown favorites. Justin Fields threw two touchdown passes and ran for another two scores for Ohio State, which ran for 322 yards on the afternoon.
Ohio State’s defense also turned in arguably its best performance of the year, allowing just 261 total yards and limiting Michigan State to a 3-for-17 success rate on third-down conversion attempts. Two of the Spartans’ points came on a safety with 1:06 left in the fourth quarter, and Haskell Garrett intercepted a pass in the Michigan State end zone for one of Ohio State’s touchdowns.
Needing just a victory to clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game, we could see the Buckeyes take their foot off the gas once they have the game in hand, even against the hated rival Wolverines. Ohio State has let down a bit lately when hosting teams with losing records, covering just two of its last eight games in that situation.
Betting Pick: UNDER 67.5
The OVER has cashed in the last seven meetings, but this total is also a couple of touchdowns higher than we’ve seen between these rivals since 2014. With Michigan’s uncertainty at quarterback and the potential for Ohio State pulling its starters early, the value appears to be on the UNDER.