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NCAA Week 13: Moneyline Bet For Michigan at Ohio State

Michigan Wolverines(10-1) @ Ohio State Buckeyes(10-1)

  • Where: The Horseshoe. Columbus, Ohio
  • When: November 26, 2016 12:00 pm EST
  • Spread: Michigan (+7) vs Ohio State (-7)
  • Moneyline: Michigan +211, Ohio State -239
  • Over / Under: Over 48.5 -110, Under 48.5 -110

Rivalry weekend has never felt so strange.

In almost any other year, any Big 10 College Football Playoff contender who lost a conference game to a non-Top 25 team would be dropped from consideration. But 2016-17 is unlike any FBS season in a long time.

Alabama is dominating the SEC with defense, making other teams in the conference look timid in comparison. The PAC-12 is hurting without a dominant program. The Big 12 looks weaker than the Group-of-5 American Athletic Conference. All of which means the Big 10 could send 2 teams to the CFP.

2 prime candidates, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines, will meet in Columbus this Saturday for an annual rivalry battle known as “The Game.” A trip to the Big 10 championship scrum will be on the line, but oddly enough, the national title picture might not be as affected by the outcome.

Each of the 2 teams has a bad loss on file. On November 12th, the Wolverines lost to Iowa 14 to 13 on a 33-yard field goal by freshman kicker Keith Duncan. Michigan gained a putrid 201 yards of total offense, and junior signal-caller Wilton Speight went 11-for-26 with 0 touchdowns and an interception. Yet Harbaugh’s team remains ranked in the top 4.

OSU’s dubious conference loss came on October 23rd, on a road trip to then-unranked Penn State. The Nittany Lions blocked an Ohio State field goal attempt and returned it for a TD with 5 minutes to go, winning 24-21 while out-scoring the highly-touted visitors 17-0 in the 4th quarter.

4 weeks later, the Buckeyes nearly lost to 3-7 Michigan State, barely getting by 17-16. Yet Urban Meyer’s squad remains ranked #2 in the AP poll.

Such rankings almost serve to minimize the potential impact of The Game on the national landscape. A well-played game and close result could leave both teams in the hunt for a playoff berth, while a blow-out for either side would spell doom for their opponent’s national-title aspirations, to say nothing of the Big 10 championship.

That could affect strategy and coaching decisions, which in turn could affect your wager.

The Bovada Sportsbook has Ohio State the money line favorite at -239 with an over/under of 48.5.

OSU – Barrett Baffles ‘Em

When the hosts win they often win big. QB J.T. Barrett is talented and dynamic in his own right, but Urban Meyer is a zen master of the shotgun-spread playbook. If a defense is mentally prepared with a great game plan, they can compete with the Bucks’ offense. If not, it’s katy-bar the door. A strong Nebraska team bowed out in a hellish 62-3 Buckeyes romp. Oklahoma went down 45-24 against OSU in Norman.

Michigan may try to shut down Meyer’s deadly zone-option game by “sitting” 1 or 2 DE’s at the snap, which can prevent the QB from making an accurate read before carrying or handing off. But the Achilles Heel of the “sit and wait” strategy, pioneered by Nick Saban at Alabama (or Tom Landry, if we’re being technical), is a reduced pass rush on play-action throws.

That could play into the hands of Barrett, who has passed for 2304 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 4 ints in 2016-17.

Michigan’s Crazy (Smart) Head Coach 

Jim Harbaugh is either a genius or terminally insane. But he ignores the pass-happy, high-scoring craze of modern offenses and implements good defense while pounding opponents up the middle. It worked in the NFL, and it’s working now at Michigan.

But even a conservative team needs a QB, and the Wolverines are hampered at the most important position. Speight is currently sidelined with an upper-body injury (we won’t learn more from Harbaugh) and listed as questionable for The Game. Backup John O’ Korn is taking snaps in practice and may start on Saturday.

With passing in doubt, the visitors will lean on a strong ‘D (10.9 ppg allowed) and senior RB De’Veon Smith, who is averaging over 5 yards a carry and has scored 10 touchdowns on the season.

“The Wager” 

Betting on the point spread (OSU -7) is a risky proposition. Consider this scenario: the score is tied 21-21 with 2 minutes on the clock. Under normal circumstances, either team would press for the game-winning field goal in regulation. But an OT result might do little to affect rankings, as in Baylor’s 61-58 OT win over TCU in 2014. The team with the ball might play it safe, hoping to win in overtime but protecting their national title hopes either way. In the 1st extra frame, Ohio State scores a touchdown, then recovers a fumble. Voila…spread covered.

A better value bet is the over. If Michigan goes all-out to defend Barrett on the ground, the Buckeyes could pass their way to an early lead, and the Wolverines will open up their offense. If the visitors stake out a halftime margin, Meyer will dig deep into his playbook. Michigan can win, but even with a talented defense there is little they can do to keep the hosts off the scoreboard.

Low-scoring games are under-valued, so the goal for both teams is to score points and win going away in what is half a rivalry game and half an audition for the Playoff committee.

Take the over at Bovada.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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