Ohio State-Northwestern Betting Guide: Are Buckeyes Overvalued in Big Ten Championship?
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Urban Meyer and Pat Fitzgerald
Ohio State-Northwestern Betting Odds for Big Ten Championship
- Odds: Ohio State -14.5
- Over/Under: 61
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX
>> All odds as of Friday at 7 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time college football odds and track your bets
Is Ohio State back after rolling Michigan, or does Northwestern have more underdog magic in store?
Let’s start here: Something has to give — at least in regard to the spread. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is 0-5 straight-up against Ohio State, including 1-4 against the spread, with an average margin of defeat of 28.8 points.
However, Fitzgerald has gone:
- 46-32-1 ATS as an underdog at Northwestern (14.6% ROI)
- 20-12-1 ATS as a double-digit underdog (20.8% ROI)
- Has 11 outright wins in those 33 games as a 10-plus point dog. This season alone, Northwestern is 3-0-1 ATS as a double digit underdog, including outright road wins over Iowa and Michigan State.
Let’s take at some key metrics for both teams before we dig into the betting market around this game, analysis of the matchup and how our experts are betting it — including one side and an over/under play.
Tale of the Tape for Ohio State-Northwestern
Odds Movement for Big Ten Championship
After opening at -12.5 at a few books, this line quickly moved to two touchdowns on Sunday afternoon, where it’s settled for much of the week. Even though Ohio State has picked up 73% of both bets and dollars as of writing (see live data here), most books had still been reluctant to give Northwestern bettors the hook at +14.5 before Friday morning.
The total has yet to see much movement, making only a slight jump from its opening number of 60 to 61. Seventy-seven percent of bets and 63% of dollars have landed on the over throughout the week.
Northwestern Built to Exceed Power Ratings
Northwestern has plummeted in S&P+ rankings throughout the season, starting at 37th and now sitting at 78th — all while going 8-4 and 8-1 in conference to win the Big Ten West.
The advanced metrics hate the Cats, yet they keep winning.
I think Northwestern is built to outperform its underlying metrics used for systems like The Action Network power ratings and S&P+. The Wildcats are bottom 15 in penalties taken per game in three of the past four seasons and first this year. Their red-zone defense is impeccable, top 10 in each of the past three seasons, 24th this season. That helps them pull out those tight contests.
Northwestern has had a negative Second Order Win Total — how many games a team should win based on its advanced statistical profile — in each of the past five seasons.
At some point, you can’t call it good luck. There’s something to Fitzgerald’s teams always hanging tough as an underdog and pulling out games they shouldn’t win.
I think this spread is spot on and I won’t be betting it, but always think twice before blindly fading Northwestern based on a talent gap or scheme mismatches.
Northwestern Can’t Exploit Ohio State’s Weakness
Ohio State’s offense has been fine all season. More than fine, I should say, as the Buckeyes average the second-most yards in FBS at 543.9, trailing only Oklahoma.
The Buckeyes’ main problems have come on defense, specifically in containing big plays. And the problem isn’t contained to just rushing or passing. It’s the reason the Buckeyes lost to Purdue and should have lost to Maryland, two teams that didn’t finish above .500 and combined to score 100 points against Ohio State.
That said, Northwestern is the opposite of the type of team that could exploit Ohio State’s glaring weaknesses.
Rush explosiveness? Northwestern ranks 106th. Pass explosiveness? Ranked 124th. Pat’s Cats could even be without their leading wide receiver.
Look no further than this chart, which illustrates the correlation between opponent explosiveness and the Ohio State defensive performance:
Ohio State allowed an average of 39.2 points per game to the five conference opponents it faced with an IsoPPP+ ranking in the top 100 while holding its four Big Ten opponents ranked outside the top 100 to 12.25 points per game.
You might say those offenses with less explosiveness will naturally score less, which is true. However, the point holds if you compare each opponent’s respective scoring average.
The five more explosive offenses averaged a touchdown more than their season average, while the bottom four averaged almost 10 points fewer. And Northwestern will have the lowest IsoPPP+ of any offense Ohio State will have faced this season, including Rutgers.