College football game of the week preview and best bets: Ohio State Buckeyes vs Michigan Wolverines
It’s rivalry week in college football, the most important week on the entire regular-season schedule. After you digest your Thanksgiving meal, there are huge college football games to ingest on Friday and Saturday. But one stands above the rest; one in which both participants are in very real College Football Playoff contention.
It’s the Ohio State Buckeyes vs the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Ohio State has surged to No. 2 in the rankings thanks to a statement-making hot streak in recent weeks, while Michigan is also 10-1 and comes in at No. 6. Who will stay alive in the National Championship discussion when the Wolverines host the Buckeyes on Saturday? Let’s take a look.
Breaking down the Buckeyes
Undefeated in the Big Ten, Ohio State has bounced back in incredibly impressive fashion from a 35-28 loss at Oregon’s hands on September 11. Although the Buckeyes beat Penn State and Nebraska by single digits, for the most part they have been crushing opponents – especially of late. Recent scores are 52-13 against Rutgers, 66-17 against Maryland, 54-7 against Indiana, 59-31 against Purdue, and 56-7 against Michigan State.
Ohio State is now the second favorite behind Georgia to win the national title (+300, while the Bulldogs are -120). Coinciding with his team’s rise, freshman quarterback CJ Stroud has become the Heisman Trophy favorite (-200, while Alabama QB Bryce Young is a +150 second choice). Stroud has passed for 3,468 yards with 36 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He has 28 TDs and 2 INTs over the last 7 contests. The Buckeyes lead the nation in total offense (559.5 ypg) and scoring (47.2 ppg).
Breaking down the Wolverines
Michigan’s one loss has come against Michigan State, which does not bode well for the Wolverines’ chances when you consider that Ohio State just humiliated the Spartans by a 49-point margin. The good news, however, is that the Wolverines have also responded in style to their lone setback. They cruised past Indiana at home and are now coming off back-to-back road victories over Penn State and Maryland.
This should be an intriguing matchup between OSU’s offense and UM’s defense. Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s squad is 10th in the nation in total defense, allowing just 306.8 yards per game. It is seventh in points allowed at 16.3 per outing. This will be a good test for Stroud, as Michigan is eighth in passing defense (178.4 ypg). Of course, the Wolverines’ best defense this weekend may be keeping the Buckeyes off the field. The home team will try to control the clock behind running back Hassan Haskins, who has racked up 1,063 yards and 13 TDs this season. Haskins has 4 100-yard performances in the last 6 games after producing just 1 in the first 5 contests.
Predictions and best bets
The Buckeyes have destroyed Purdue by 28 points and Michigan State by 49 points in their last 2 efforts. Can the Wolverines really keep it to around a touchdown or less on Saturday? Their loss to Michigan State only looks worse since it happened and their recent history in this head-to-head series is also alarming. Ohio State has won 8 straight and 15 of the last 16 encounters, including the last two by a combined 52 points. It really wouldn’t surprise me if this is a rout, so give me the visitors -7.5.
Although I don’t love the game total being as high as 63.5, I think an over play correlates nicely with an Ohio State romp. Therefore I will lean in that direction, but not as confidently as with the ATS play.
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