Michigan-Ohio State Betting Guide: Too Much Love for the Wolverines?

Michigan-Ohio State Betting Guide: Too Much Love for the Wolverines? article feature image

Mike Carter, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan at Ohio State Betting Odds, Pick

  • Odds: Michigan -4.5
  • Over/Under: 54.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: FOX

>> All odds as of Friday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets

This is Urban Meyer’s most-flawed team at Ohio State. The defense has some major issues stopping the run and preventing big plays, while Dwayne Haskins’ lack of mobility has somewhat limited the offense, mainly on the ground.

So naturally, bettors have flocked to Michigan this week. But the Buckeyes have absolutely owned this rivalry over the last two decades, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings.

The Wolverines have looked much better than Ohio State over the last two months, but none of that will matter if they can’t beat their bitter rivals. The winner will play Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Odds Movement for Ohio State-Michigan

By Danny Donahue

This is on pace to be the most heavily bet game of the Week 13 slate, and Michigan has accounted for the slight majority of the betting tickets so far. The Wolverines have drawn 54% of bets and 51% of dollars, which has helped move this line from -3.5 to -4.5 (see live betting data here).

But while bettors are somewhat split on the matchup, the total has generated much more one-sided action. Eighty percent of bets and 96% of dollars are on this under, moving the total from 59 to 56. Inclimate weather has a lot to do with that.

The Recipe to Beat Michigan

By Steve Petrella

I figure the best way to spend your time here is to present a case for Ohio State, because most people’s default reaction is to bet Michigan given how these two teams are trending. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but here’s how the Buckeyes can upset the Wolverines (stats via Football Outsiders/SB Nation).

1. Keep Michigan Behind the Chains

Michigan ranks No. 2 nationally in average third-down distance on offense. They face an average third down of just 5.7 yards.

Fortunately, Ohio State’s biggest weakness on defense is giving up big plays. It’s still pretty efficient. The Wolverines won’t beat you with big plays, so if Ohio State can have success on early downs (the Buckeyes are 18th in average third-down distance on defense), I think Michigan’s offense will struggle to move the ball at times.

2. Finish Drives

Michigan has allowed just 19 drives to enter the red zone this season. That’s the fewest in the country.

But opponents have put up points on 18 of those drives, good for a 94.74% success rate, third-worst in the country. Fourteen of those drives have resulted in touchdowns, which is bottom 15 nationally.

Ohio State ranks 24th in points per trip inside the 40-yard line, but just 119th in red zone scoring percentage. The Buckeyes will need to finish drives.

3. Make Michigan Throw

Michigan ranks No. 7 in passing S&P+ on offense, but that’s in part because it uses the ground game to set up favorable passing situations. The Wolverines run the ball on 68.3% of standard downs, No. 20 nationally.

Ohio State needs to mix up defensive looks and make Michigan throw when it doesn’t want to. In relation to keeping the Wolverines behind the chains, the Buckeyes need to limit chunk plays, and they have the defense to do that. They rank top 20 in opportunity rate (5-yard gains or more) and stuff rate (runs that go for no gain or a loss of yards), but give up huge plays.

Is Ohio State…Undervalued?

By Ken Barkley

Rarely do you get to type the words “Ohio State is undervalued,” but I fail to see how that’s not the case here. Yes, there are weird scenarios sort-of swirling around the Buckeyes program, with people asking Urban Meyer if he’s going to coach next year, or if he should retire, etc. etc. But I can’t really handicap what effect any of that stuff has on the field. If there’s someone who can, their techniques are quite sophisticated.

In the “premiere” matchup, this will be the best offense Michigan has seen this season by a pretty wide margin (the next best was probably Wisconsin but the two teams have very little in common). This will also be the best defense Ohio State has seen (Michigan State would be next, and Ohio State struggled against the Spartans for large portions of that game). There isn’t much precedent to predict which elite unit will stand out when facing such outlier opponents.

All I can tell you is that the market’s opinion on these two teams is stretched. Michigan has failed to cover twice in a row, sure. But because of their placement in the College Football Playoff rankings each week, and the fact that their margins of victory are still pretty wide, I think they are getting tons of respect here.

The Wolverines also dominated opponents in all of their big conference games this season, several of which were in primetime. The look-ahead in this game before the year (obviously) had Ohio State favored, and that has flipped dramatically to more than a field goal the other way. That is credit, folks.

Meanwhile, Ohio State just almost lost to Maryland in overtime. In that game, Ohio State actually played much better than you’d think in the box score, but because of two awful turnovers at terrible times, as well as a few other mistakes in big spots, the score compressed as much as possible. It was about the worst game Ohio State could have played from an appearance standpoint, and as a bettor you get to take advantage of that here, in my opinion.

There isn’t a soul who should want to take the Buckeyes here after a season filled with disappointing, fail-to-cover performances, including their most recent. But the margin between these teams is, in all likelihood, probably not the touchdown that it’s currently being rated as. I like Michigan as a team, I like Shea Patterson’s improvement, and I love the defense, but that’s not what any of this is about. To me, this is just a number that’s a little bit too big.

Michigan Offense Not Explosive Enough

By Collin Wilson

The Michigan bandwagon has grown non-stop since the loss to Notre Dame. National title odds were set at 50-1 on the Wolverines after the loss to the Irish, which seemed improbable knowing Michigan had to win out. I got a 35-1 national title future down on Michigan prior to the Wisconsin game, knowing that only the Ohio State hurdle would keep the Maize and Blue out of the playoff.

The love is well deserved, as Michigan ranks second in S&P+ defense, 15th in special teams S&P+ and fourth overall. Still, this is a 12.5 point adjustment from the game of the year at Caesars on Oct. 14. That’s a lot.

The theme of 2018 for the Buckeyes has been defending big plays — or the inability to do it. Ohio State is 122nd overall in IsoPPP, specifically 125th against the rush and 130th in passing downs defense. Teams like TCU, Purdue and Maryland exposed the Buckeyes with big plays.

While Michigan is putting up fantastic offensive numbers, ranking 25th in rush S&P+ and seventh in passing S&P+, the Wolverines are not as explosive as the opponents mentioned above. Shea Patterson leads an air attack that is 60th in passing downs explosiveness, while Karan Higdon leads the a rush unit that is 35th in explosiveness on the ground.

In the futures market, I am riding with the Maize and Blue. Michigan has a defense that would give Alabama plenty of issues in the playoff, but in this Ohio State game, the point spread has been adjusted too much.

The Buckeyes are still one of the most efficient offenses in the nation and can trade punches.

The Pick: Ohio State +4.5

One Key Trend

By John Ewing

This is the first time the Buckeyes have been underdogs since the 2014-15 national title game against Oregon. Under Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 6-0 straight up and against the spread when getting points.

In his career, Meyer has been fantastic as an underdog. During his time at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State, Meyer has amassed a 20-6 ATS record as a dog, winning 17 of those games outright.

Did You Know?

By Evan Abrams

Ohio State will be a home underdog for the first time since 2011 against Wisconsin and Russell Wilson, which was 51 home games ago.

During that span, Ohio State was 47-4 SU and 21-29-1 ATS in Columbus, including 3-0 SU and 1-2 ATS vs. Michigan. Ohio State has not been a home dog to Michigan since 2004, when Troy Smith dueled Chad Henne and the Buckeyes won by 16 at home.

Michigan enters this game in Columbus ranked No. 4 in the country and undefeated. In 1985, Ohio State hosted No. 1 Iowa in Columbus on Nov. 2 and beat the Hawkeyes 22-13. Since that game, Ohio State has only hosted two top-5 teams at the Horseshoe in November or later…

  • Nov. 24, 2018 vs. No. 4 Michigan. OSU (+4.5)
  • Nov. 26, 2016 vs. No. 3 Michigan. OSU (-3.5) won 30-27
  • Nov. 18, 2006 vs. No. 2 Michigan. OSU (-6.5) won 42-39
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