The No. 7 Michigan State Spartans (9-1, 6-1 in Big Ten) visit the Horseshoe Saturday for a Big Ten East battle with the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1, 7-0). Kickoff at Ohio Stadium is set for noon E.T. and airs on ABC.
Michigan State bounced back from its first loss to paste the Maryland Terrapins 40-21 Saturday as 11.5-point home favorites. Spartans sophomore QB Payton Thorne threw four TDs. At the same time, junior RB Kenneth Walker III added 143 rushing yards with two TDs.
Walker leads the country in rushing yards (1,483) and is tied with the most scrimmaged TDs (18). According to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin, Michigan State is 7-1-2 against the spread (ATS) and 6-4 Over/Under (O/U) with the 54th-toughest schedule.
Ohio State blasted the Purdue Boilermakers 59-31 in Week 11 for its eighth consecutive victory. Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud has the third-best passer efficiency rating in the country with the fifth-most passing TDs (30). Ohio State is 5-4-1 ATS and 6-4 O/U with the 40th-toughest schedule, according to Sagarin.
The Buckeyes bulldozed the Spartans last year 52-12 as 21.5-point road favorites in Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker’s first year on the job. Ohio State has beaten Michigan State in five straight meetings (4-1 ATS), and the Under has cashed in four of those contests.
- Opening Line: Ohio State -18
- Current Line: Ohio State -19
- Total (Over/Under): 68.5
There’s a “reverse line move” in the betting market towards Ohio State. According to Pregame.com, nearly 80% of the cash wagered at the time of publishing is on Michigan State. But, Ohio State is now a 19-point favorite despite all the pro-Spartans wagers. The same goes for the total, which opened at 72.5 but is down 4 points even though more than 90% of the action is on the Over (Pregame.com).
Ryan Day succeeded Urban Meyer over as the full-time head coach of Ohio State in 2019. The Buckeyes are 5-8 ATS vs. teams in top-25 (-1.8 ATS margin), 14-8-1 ATS vs. Big Ten foes (+7.1 ATS margin), and 9-7 ATS at home (+4.2 ATS margin) since Day became head coach.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker inked a massive extension this week in his second year on the job. The Spartans are 5-3 ATS on the road (+4.7 ATS margin), 7-7 ATS in conference play (-0.5 ATS margin), and 4-2 ATS vs. ranked teams (+8.2 ATS margin).
If there are three scores worth of difference between Michigan State and Ohio State, I’m not seeing it. Let’s start the handicap by comparing the defenses. Here are Ohio State rankings in various key defensive metrics: 33rd in defensive predicted points added (PPA), 50th in defensive success rate, 81st in Havoc rate, and 89th in defensive passing down success rate.
On the other hand, Michigan State’s rankings in those same categories: 41st in defensive PPA, 69th in defensive success rate, 79th in Havoc rate, and 70th in defensive passing down success rate. So the Spartans are in the same neighborhood as the Buckeyes in key defensive metrics. I’ll concede Ohio State’s defense has more talent and future NFL players. But, how much is that worth? I’d say 4 points.
Now, let’s discuss the offenses. Stroud is getting legitimate Heisman Trophy buzz, and rightfully so. All you need to know about Stroud is written above. He’s the quarterback of a one-loss Ohio State team with some of the best passing numbers in the country. Also, Stroud is surrounded by talent. There’s a future NFL player at every position on Ohio State’s offense.
But, Spartans QB Thorne has certainly exceeded expectations. Thorne is second to only Stroud in passer efficiency rating and passing TDs in the Big Ten and is fourth in completion percentage. On top of that, Walker is the only running back in the country that may get invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. A running back probably can’t win the Heisman in today’s game. But, Walker is more important to Michigan State than any other running back in the sport.
Like with the defense, the ceiling of Ohio State’s offense is much higher than Michigan State’s because of the difference in talent. However, the Spartans’ balanced attack should have success vs. the Buckeyes’ defense. So I’m only giving Ohio State an extra 4 points worth of value on offense.
After factoring in Ohio State’s substantial home-field advantage (4.5 points) and its more reliable kicking game, I think the Buckeyes should be laying -14.
PICK: Michigan State +19.5
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