Big Ten Championship: Betting Value on Northwestern vs. Ohio State Over/Under
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Fields.
Northwestern vs. Ohio State Odds
|Northwestern Odds||+18.5 [BET NOW]|
|Ohio State Odds||-18.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+700 / -1115 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||56.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 12 p.m. ET|
Even though it only played five games, Ohio State is in the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern in Indianapolis on Saturday.
The Buckeyes took care of business against every one of their five opponents with only one real scare at home against Indiana. The debate rages on whether or not Ohio State belongs in the College Football playoff despite only playing six games. A blowout win against a ranked Northwestern squad would certainly silence the doubters.
It’s been a dream season for the Wildcats, who are in the Big Ten Championship game for the second time in three years. Their defense has answered the call at every single turn. The only question is, will their offense match Justin Fields and the Buckeye offense?
Even though Northwestern is 6-1, their offense has been terrible this season. They are 92nd in Offensive Success Rate and 88th in explosiveness, per College Football Data. The main issue for the Wildcats is they’ve desperately struggled to run the ball.
Northwestern is gaining a measly 3.9 yards per carry and rank 109th in Rushing Success. It ran the ball with a ton of success in its last game against Illinois, gaining 7.1 yards per carry. However, Ohio State has one of the best run defenses in the Big Ten, so I think Northwestern is going to struggle to establish its ground game.
Senior quarterback Peyton Ramsey has been average at best for the Wildcats this season. He’s averaging only 6.8 yards per attempt and has nine touchdowns compared to six interceptions. Northwestern’s passing attack is also not going to beat anybody deep. The Wildcats are 84th in passing explosiveness, and Ramsey’s longest completion of the season is 33 yards.
If a team wants to beat Ohio State, it has to do it through air because that’s where the Buckeyes are most vulnerable. I don’t think Northwestern has the passing game to test Ohio State’s secondary.
The reason Northwestern has only one loss is because of its defense. The Wildcats are top-10 in Defensive Success Rate and are the No. 1 team in the country in points per opportunity, meaning they’ve given up the fewest expected points based on the opponents’ starting field position.
The best part of this Northwestern defense is its secondary. It leads college football in yards per attempt allowed at only 5.0 yards. It’s also third in Defensive Passing Success, but it’s are going to face its toughest test of the season when it sees Justin Fields.
Northwestern has been somewhat struggling to keep the opposing team’s rushing attack in check. It ranks 35th in Defensive Rushing Success but 95th in rushing explosiveness allowed. Ohio State, on the other side of the field, gains 5.5 yards per carry.
Ohio State Buckeyes
It’s always tough to judge a five-game sample size for a team that has played a weak schedule up until this point in the season. However, Ohio State’s offense numbers are damn impressive. The Buckeyes are gaining a crazy 7.0 yards per play, much of which can be contributed to Fields.
In his five starts this season, Fields is averaging a ridiculous 10.3 yards per attempt and has thrown 15 touchdown passes. That has led Ohio State to be ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation in terms of Passing Success.
It helps Fields when he has extremely talented receivers like Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. The duo has combined for 70 of Ohio State’s 107 catches this season and is averaging a whopping 15.7 yards per catch. With that being said, the two haven’t faced a secondary to the level of Northwestern’s, so we could see a dip in Fields’ production.
Ohio State has also been running the ball with a ton of success. Its running back tandem of Master Teague and Trey Sermon is averaging 5.42 yards per carry and has led Ohio State to a ranking of 15th in Rushing Success.
For Ohio State to have success on Saturday, it may be in its best interest to take the ball out of Fields’ hands and do some damage on the ground, as that’s where Northwestern struggles most.
The Buckeyes defense has not been as dominant as in years past. Ohio State is 33rd in Defensive Success and 91st in explosive plays allowed, per College Football Data. The reason it’s struggled so much is because of its secondary.
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. absolutely torched the Ohio State secondary for 491 and five touchdowns. Now, Ramsey does not possess the skill level of Penix, but it shows that the Buckeyes can be thrown on. They rank 59th in Defensive Passing Success, 64th in passing explosiveness allowed, and are allowing 7.2 yards per attempt. That’s a significant drop off from last season when the Buckeyes allowed only 5.6 yards per attempt.
The strength of the Buckeye defense is in its front seven. Ohio State is allowing a measly 3.4 yards per attempt and ranks 12th in Defensive Rushing Success. Northwestern struggles to run the ball, so Ohio State should be able to force Peyton Ramsey to throw more than he wants.
Betting Analysis & Pick
For Northwestern to win this game, its defense and Ramsey are going to have to go to another level. Fields and the Ohio State offense is too good, and if the Wildcats fall behind early, you can almost kiss this game and the cover goodbye.
However, given how good Northwestern’s defense is and how inept its offense is, I think we will see a low-scoring game.
Additionally, Pat Fitzgerald has historically been an “under” coach.
I have only 49.33 points projected for the Big Ten Championship, so I think there’s some value on the under at 57.5 points.
Pick: Under 57.5 points (down to 54.5).