College Football Best Bets: 8 Picks for Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Saturday, November 20)
Nic Antaya and Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Chester Kimbrough (12) of Michigan State and Emeka Egbuka (12) of Ohio State.
No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Michigan State Odds
|Ohio State Odds|
-112o / -109u
|Michigan State Odds|
-112o / -109u
To say Saturday’s noon tilt between No. 7 Michigan State and No. 4 Ohio State is a big game is an understatement.
This conference matchup has bragging rights at stake, but most importantly, the Big Ten East division remains up in the air and the winner will stay in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth.
Also, don’t forget there will be over 100,000 fans in attendance — and going berserk for the Buckeyes — to witness this high-quality matchup.
So, with that in mind, our staff dove into Week 12’s marquee game by previewing it from a betting perspective and by offering up their favorite potential wagers below.
How We’re Betting Ohio State vs. Michigan State
|Ohio State -18.5|
|Ohio State -18.5|
|Ohio State -18.5|
|First Half Over 35|
|Ohio State Team Total Over 43.5|
|Michigan State Team Total Over 24.5|
|Chris Olave Player Prop|
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Ohio State -18.5
I don’t see how Michigan State gets any stops here.
The Spartans have had one of the worst pass defenses of any Power Five team so far this season. Any team with a pulse at quarterback has absolutely torched the Spartans’ secondary, which has to play soft in coverage due to its deficiencies at cornerback.
Just take a look at some of the passing performances this season from quarterbacks playing against Michigan State:
- D’Eriq King, Miami: 388 yards
- Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky: 488 yards
- Cade McNamara, Michigan: 383 yards
- Aidan O’Connell, Purdue: 536 yards
- Taulia Tagovaloa, Maryland: 350 yards
Next up is Heisman hopeful CJ Stroud and the best wide receiver group in all of college football. Good luck!
And if Sparty just wants to play ball control and run Kenneth Walker III, that plays right into the strength of the Ohio State defense. Plus, I don’t think that plan will last long if the Ohio State offense explodes early as I expect it to.
Also, Michigan State is dealing with a number of key injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver. That doesn’t help matters.
This is a nightmare matchup for a Michigan State team that I think is severely overvalued in the market. The Spartans really should’ve lost to both Nebraska and Michigan. They also could’ve lost to Indiana with a backup quarterback if not for a pick-six.
I think there’s value in this number, and I love the matchup. I’m just hoping Ohio State can build a big enough lead to keep the backdoor shut. I’m laying the points.
Pick: Ohio State -18.5
Ohio State -18.5
Ohio State owns the top scoring offense in the nation, and it averages 46.3 points per game and over 550 total yards per contest.
It’s averaging a first down every time it passes the ball with 10.0 yards per pass attempt. The rushing offense averages 6.0 yards per carry, which is the top mark in the nation.
C.J. Stroud has surpassed 3,000 yards passing while tossing 30 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season. He’s the current betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, along with Alabama’s Bryce Young.
Michigan State’s defense hasn’t been anything special recently, specifically against the pass. In the last three weeks, the Spartans have allowed an average of 430 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns to Michigan, Purdue, and Maryland. That’s a recipe for disaster matching up against the top aerial assault in the country.
The Buckeyes offense is undoubtedly a juggernaut, and the only way Michigan State will stay competitive is by scoring with them.
But the Ohio State defense has improved drastically since the beginning of the season. After giving up 472 rushing yards to Minnesota and Oregon, Ohio State has allowed an average of just 75 rushing yards per game over its last eight contests.
The front seven has improved to only allow 3.1 yards per carry, which ranks 11th in the nation. The unit will be pivotal in slowing down Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III, who has amassed nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
I anticipate Ohio State to stack the box and force Payton Thorne to keep up with the Buckeyes offense himself. That’s a tall task for Thorne traveling to a hostile environment while being outmatched in the talent department at nearly every position.
Pick: Ohio State -18.5
Ohio State -18.5
The Ohio State Buckeyes are hosting the Michigan State Spartans for their final home game this season.
After a rocky start to the season offensively, the Buckeyes have completely pulled their act together. Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud has hit his stride, leading the Buckeye offense and filling former QB Justin Fields’ shoes.
Season to date, Ohio ranks first in the nation in scoring offense (46.3 points per game), total offense (550.0 yards per game), touchdowns scored (59) and yards per play (8.03).
The recent success is a far cry from a team that had a hard time with Minnesota in the season opener and lost outright to Oregon. The Buckeyes have improved significantly on offense since those first couple of games.
Stroud ranks fifth in the nation in quarterback efficiency and has thrown for 30 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave all rank in the top 10 in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game. Nationally, Smith-Njigba and Wilson rank in the top 25 in receiving yards per game, and Olave is tied for first in receiving touchdowns.
Stroud and his consortium of excellent receivers shouldn’t have a problem with a Michigan State defense that ranks 111th in the nation in total defense, giving up 443.0 yards per game.
The story craters for Sparty when looking at their passing defense, which ranks dead last in the nation, allowing 329 yards per game. Saturday looks to be an incredibly long day for the Spartans’ secondary.
Ohio State is going to leverage all of its aerial weapons against Michigan State in this game. Given how good the Buckeyes have been in the passing game and how bad Michigan State’s passing defense has been, I see this game getting out of hand.
I’m projecting Ohio State as a 23.5-point favorite. Lay the points in Columbus.
Pick: Ohio State -18.5
Over 68.5 (-105)
By Alex Hinton
The under has hit in five of the last six meetings in this series, but I don’t expect that to be the case this year.
For starters, the over hit last season when Ohio State did most of the work in a 52-12 victory. The Buckeyes once again have a high-powered offense, topping the nation in points per game and total offense while ranking sixth in passing yards per game.
The Buckeyes’ passing attack will be troubling for a Michigan State defense that ranks dead last in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game and 100th in Passing Success Rate.
MSU has given up big games to Michigan’s Andrel Anthony and Purdue’s David Bell in recent weeks. The Buckeyes have three receivers who would be No. 1 receivers for most teams in America. Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Ninjba each have over 50 receptions and 700 yards receiving.
Unlike last season, the Spartans have the scoring punch to keep up with the Buckeyes. Michigan State is top-30 in total offense and points per game.
The Spartans are led by Heisman candidate running back Kenneth Walker III. He leads the nation with 1,473 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns and could have a big day against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are 14th in rushing allowed yards, but that’s a misleading number. Oregon ran for 269 yards against Ohio State back in Week 2, and since then, the Buckeyes have only faced two top-40 rushing offenses — Tulsa and Nebraska. Six of OSU’s eight opponents since have ranked 83rd or below in rushing.
With each offense built to attack the other’s weakness, that could make for a shootout in Columbus.
Pick: Over 68.5 (-105)
First Half Over 35
The Battle for the Big Ten East has been absolutely fascinating to watch all season.
While dropping a clunker against Purdue, Michigan State still controls its own destiny with a win over Ohio State, as it owns the tiebreaker over Michigan. For Ohio State, it also must win out to secure its Big Ten title game berth as well.
Even with Michigan on deck, this is not a look-ahead spot for Ohio State. Sure, the number implies a blowout, but Michigan State will give the Buckeyes their best shot.
Michigan State has been one of the better offensives as of late, led behind potential Heisman winner Kenneth Walker III. He will look to put his stamp for the Heisman in his last big regular-season game. But that may be easier said than done, as Ohio State is top-15 in both defensive rushing metrics.
Where MSU may find success is through the air. While Ohio State has respectable defensive metrics, its Def. Pass Success rank is a lowly 69th in the nation. Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne will look to carve the secondary in an effort to keep pace with Ohio State’s scoring.
The reason I’m taking the first-half over instead of the full game is that the second half has too much variance for my liking. If it turns into a blowout, Ohio State may call off the dogs and bring in the backups to prepare for Michigan.
While I expect Ohio State to do its part, this bet solely comes down to MSU’s production. I believe it will be able to put up enough on its end for this to hit with OSU having a weak pass defense. Also, the potential big play from Walker always helps too.
Pick: First Half Over 35
Ohio State Team Total Over 43.5
If the Ohio State offense looks anything like it did against a Purdue secondary that was top-25 in a lot of defensive passing metrics, it’s going to shred Michigan State’s secondary.
CJ Stroud is putting up gaudy numbers right now, averaging 9.7 yards per attempt with a 90.9 PFF passing grade 18 big-time throws this season.
Michigan State, meanwhile, has really struggled in the secondary, ranking 99th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, 63rd in EPA/Pass allowed, and 56th in coverage grade, per PFF.
Now, MSU’s front seven has done a great job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as it boasts the 22nd-best pass-rushing grade, but the Ohio State offensive line is top-25 in terms of a pass-blocking grade. Stroud also has a 70.7 passing grade when under pressure, which is one of the best in the Big Ten.
The Spartans’ front seven has been good at limiting big plays on the ground, ranking ninth in rushing explosiveness allowed, but they’re 49th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 93rd in Stuff Rate.
So, TreVeyon Henderson and the Buckeye rushing attack — one that ranks 28th in Success Rate, 17th in Offensive Line Yards, and 10th in EPA/Rush — should be able to establish a ground game against the Spartans.
I have 46.7 points projected for Ohio State on Saturday so I think there’s a little bit of value on its team total of over 43.5 points at -121.
Pick: Ohio State Team Total Over 43.5 (-121)
Michigan State Team Total Over 24.5
Michigan State has been one of the best offenses in the country, averaging 434.8 yards and 33.8 points per game.
And while Ohio State has been one of the better defenses, limiting opponents to just 20.2 points per game on average, it’s struggled against elite competition. Purdue, Minnesota, and Oregon all scored 30 or more points against the Buckeyes.
The Spartans’ passing game hasn’t been elite, but they definitely have the opportunity to take advantage of an Ohio State secondary that has allowed opponents to record 261.5 passing yards per game. Michigan State has also scored fewer than 25 points only twice this season — against Nebraska and Indiana.
More importantly, I think Ohio State will struggle greatly to limit Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III. The Buckeyes do rank 15th in opponent rush yards per game, but no one they’ve seen this season comes close to Walker’s talent level.
What stuck out to me the most about this line was the value I found on it: +100 at DraftKings. Listed as high as -121 on other books, It’s a bet I feel confident about with a great price.
Pick: Michigan State Team Total Over 24.5 (+100)
Chris Olave Over 70.5 Receiving Yards
Admittedly, there are a lot of mouths to feed in this Ohio State passing game, with its top three receivers entering this game with yardage totals of 1,037 (Jaxon Smith-Njigba), 812 (Chris Olave), and 810 (Garrett Wilson).
However, it’s been Olave who has received the largest target share on the Buckeyes, as 24.5% of the team’s total passing attempts have gone his way. He’s really come on over the past two games, as he’s been targeted a whopping 27 times, hauling in 17 of those passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Looking at who Olave will be going up against, Michigan State ranks 75th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, with none of its starting cornerbacks ranking in the top 15 among Big Ten corners in PFF coverage grade.
Overall, Olave’s the most heavily-targeted player in a potent Ohio State passing offense and is facing a Michigan State secondary that has been very generous to opposing wide receivers.
The Buckeyes’ passing game is in store for a monster showing against this group, and Olave should be one of the main beneficiaries of that.