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Michigan State vs. Ohio State Betting Odds, Predictions: 2 Top Picks for Big Ten East Battle (Nov. 20)

Michigan State vs. Ohio State Betting Odds, Predictions: 2 Top Picks for Big Ten East Battle (Nov. 20) article feature image

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kenneth Walker III.

Michigan State vs. Ohio State Odds

Saturday, Nov. 20
12 p.m. ET
Michigan State Odds
-112o / -109u
Ohio State Odds
-112o / -109u
Odds via Gun Lake. Get up-to-the-minute college football oddshere.

The immediate reaction to the opening point spread on Michigan State vs. Ohio State didn’t come as much of a surprise to gamblers. But national college football writers outside of the investment space seemed surprised that two teams on the cusp of the College Football Playoff are separated by three scores.

The task for Michigan State to make the playoff is straightforward: beat Ohio State on Saturday, beat Penn State in the regular-season finale, and beat Wisconsin as an underdog in the Big Ten Championship.

The true odds of winning three straight is 46-1 for the Spartans.

Ohio State continues to rise in the playoff rankings after entering the top four following Week 10. The Buckeyes are a projected 5-point favorite at Michigan and 9-point favorite over Wisconsin in a hypothetical conference championship.

Despite a loss to Oregon earlier this season, Ohio State has the easiest path to the College Football Playoff outside of Georgia.

The biggest question for the Buckeyes is if the defense has improved or simply masked issues with the explosive play against lesser competition.

Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State Perfecting the Big Play

Mel Tucker has returned Michigan State to the national scene with authority.

The Spartans have lost against the spread just twice this season, the most recent in a straight-up loss to Purdue.

A push against Indiana and a non-cover against Nebraska have created a handicap around Michigan State: Stop the explosive play, and the Spartans can be beaten.

Payton Thorne finds Montorie Foster on the flea flicker and MSU is rolling early!

— BULLYBALL (@RealBullyBall) November 13, 2021

Michigan State struggled against Indiana and Nebraska, two teams that rank highly in stopping the explosive play. The Cornhuskers are third in defensive big-play rate, while Indiana is top-20 defensively in expected points.

The Spartans are multi-dimensional on offense with a big-play rate in the top 10 nationally.

While Thorne finds Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor for chunk yards through the air, the play of Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III has boosted the Spartans to national title contenders. Walker averages 4.7 yards after contact and is the top-ranked running back in elusiveness, per PFF.

⚡️ @Kenneth_Walker9 is just unstoppable for

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 14, 2021

Nailor’s status must be monitored as a hand injury, as the wide receiver is listed as questionable against a susceptible Ohio State secondary. Nailor is joined by a handful of other questionable players for Michigan State, including two offensive linemen who have logged over 200 snaps this season.

The Spartans’ defensive aggressiveness has paid off in spots for the 4-2-5 scheme. Michigan State calls blitz on more than a quarter of snaps in first-and-10 and second-down passing downs, defined as eight yards or more to go.

Tucker has called for six defenders to rush the pocket on 10% of defensive snaps, leaving open a secondary that ranks 100th in Passing Success Rate.

Opposing quarterbacks who are steady in a crowded pocket have executed against a Michigan State defense that sits 99th in Passing Downs Sack Rate.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Is Ohio State’s Defense Vulnerable?

Quarterback CJ Stroud continues his Heisman campaign by posting the video-game numbers expected out of an Ohio State offense.

Stroud has 18 big-time throws to just nine turnover-worthy plays, but the biggest impact is on opponent blitz downs. Calling stunts on the freshman quarterback has been a losing scenario for defenses, as Stroud has an adjusted completion percentage drop of just 2% while boasting an outstanding 16:1 in touchdown-to-interception ratio when blitzed.

There's 10:48 left in the 3Q.@GarrettWilson_V has 4 TDs, and counting. 😱

— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 13, 2021

The return of Garrett Wilson at wide receiver signifies full strength for the Buckeyes offense, which resulted in 59 points while obtaining 89% of available yards against Purdue.

Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson combined for 215 yards on 27 carries, while Stroud targeted Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba on 34 passing attempts.

This is the most high-powered offense in the nation clicking on all cylinders at the right time of the season.

The biggest question for the Buckeyes’ run to the national title is the defense. Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs was replaced as the play caller by Matt Barnes at the end of September.

The change was to stay in a 4-2-5 scheme but simplify with pre-snap activities, from anchoring corners to one side of the field to leaving a second safety in pass coverage. These changes made for solid improvement, as OSU allowed just 44 points in October games leading up to Penn State.

However, the Nittany Lions exposed gaps in the defense in a sweat-free cover. Penn State rang up a methodical drive rate double the national average, as four drives went at least 10-plus plays.

Not only was the Success Rate above the national average, but quarterback Sean Clifford also completed eight passes over 15 yards. Issues defending the pass persisted against Purdue, as Aidan O’Connell had a release time under two seconds en route to an explosive offensive day.

Purdue exposed the pass defense of Ohio State by generating 8.3 yards per play and a Success Rate 20% above the national average in passing downs while posting more explosive passes than Stroud.

The fear of the explosive pass opened up running lanes, as the Boilermakers went 30% above the national average in Success Rate on the ground and were stuffed on just four attempts.

The positive takeaway is Ohio State generating three more yards per play overall than Purdue, but creating no sacks or pressure in the box score has created a template for other explosive offenses.

Michigan State vs. Ohio State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Michigan State and Ohio State match up statistically:

Michigan State Offense vs. Ohio State Defense
Rush Success2928
Line Yards566
Pass Success3373
Pass Blocking**3319
Big Play924
Finishing Drives7626
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Ohio State Offense vs. Michigan State Defense
Rush Success2748
Line Yards1730
Pass Success3100
Pass Blocking**325
Big Play322
Finishing Drives822
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling8249
Middle 82710
SP+ Special Teams1022
Plays per Minute4141
Rush Rate57.1% (53)48.2% (107)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Michigan State vs. Ohio State Betting Pick

The defensive issues for the Buckeyes remain a factor in the handicap, as Ohio State simply needed to outscore Purdue in Week 11.

Michigan State features one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, ranking eighth in standard downs.

Going deep early on Ohio State has been successful for opposing offenses, as the Buckeyes defense ranks 86th in standard downs explosiveness.

The question remains if Ohio State wants this game to be a boat race and if Michigan State is prepared to find an offensive gear similar to the Buckeyes.

There are plenty of statistical edges in the numbers that dictate Ohio State will roll in this game. The Spartans are 76th in Offensive Finishing Drives, scoring below the national average at 3.6 points per possession that crosses the 40-yard line. On the other side, Ohio State is eighth offensively when crossing the 40, supported by a rank of 10th in red-zone scoring percentage.

Another large discrepancy is Stuff Rate, focusing on Ohio State with Williams and Henderson against Michigan State’s defensive front seven. The Buckeyes are second in Offensive Stuff Rate compared to the Spartans’ rank of 104th on defense, meaning each Ohio State rushing attempt will get second-level yards.

The final statistical gap favoring the Buckeyes is SP+ Special Teams with Ohio State ranking second in the nation compared to Michigan State at 102nd. Any Spartan investors looking for a backdoor may be presented with a punt return touchdown.

The Action Network projection is Ohio State -15 with a total of 67, as the value on the spread is with Michigan State.

Considering there are advantageous numbers for both offenses to exploit the explosive play, the full-game over is suggested even as the market is trending downward. A key number in this range is 65, and any dip to this buy point should be met with resistance.

If the total does not come down to the key, consider taking a first-half over, as Ohio State has scored more in the first half than the second half in every game since Tulsa on Sept. 18.

Whether the Buckeyes go into cruise control or defenses adjust, head coach Ryan Day has been well prepared offensively the past seven games.

Pick: 1H Over 34 or Better | Michigan State +19 or Better

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