The Game in the Big Ten East between the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 8-0 in Big Ten) and the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines (10-7, 7-1) is Saturday at The Big House. Noon ET is the kickoff time and The Game airs on ABC
Ohio State has won nine straight and blistered the No. 12 Michigan State Spartans 56-7 as 20-point home favorites. Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud is currently a -200 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Stroud is second in the nation in both passer efficiency rating (186.7) and adjusted passing yards per attempt (11.5) and fourth in passing TDs (36). Ohio State is 6-4-1 against the spread (ATS) and 6-5 Over/Under (O/U) with the 35th-toughest schedule in the country, according to USA TODAY’s Jeff Sagarin.
Michigan is on a three-game winning streak (3-0 ATS) with the latest being a 59-18 beatdown of the Maryland Terrapins as 16-point road favorites. Wolverines edge rusher David Ojabo leads the Big Ten in sacks (10) and forced fumbles (five) and teammate Aidan Hutchinson has the third-most sacks (9.0). Michigan is 9-2 ATS and 5-6 O/U with the 43rd-hardest schedule, according to Sagarin.
Ohio State-Michigan was canceled last season because of the COVID pandemic. However, the Buckeyes have an eight-game winning streak (4-4 ATS) in their head-to-head series with the Wolverines. The Over cashed in seven consecutive Ohio State-Michigan games.
- Opening Line: Ohio State -7
- Current Line: Ohio State -7.5
- Total (Over/Under): 64.5
There’s one-way betting traffic headed towards Columbus, Ohio. According to Pregame.com, more than 80% of the handle is on Ohio State. Which has steamed the Buckeyes’ spread up a half-point. Also, bettors notice the Over trend we’ve seen in The Game for years. Roughly 80% of the money is on the Over but the total hasn’t budged off the opener.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh took over the football program in 2015. Over that span, the Wolverines are 13-16 ATS vs. ranked competition, 30-27-1 ATS in conference play, and 2-3 ATS as a home underdog. Michigan is 20-9 O/U vs. ranked teams, 5-0 O/U as a home underdog, and 36-22 ATS in Big Ten games since 2015. All of these trends rank atop the conference in Over rate.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day replaced Urban Meyer as head coach in 2019. The Buckeyes are 6-8 ATS vs. ranked teams, 8-2-1 ATS as a road favorite, and 15-8-1 in Big Ten games since 2019. In the Day era, Ohio State is 13-10-1 O/U in conference play, 4-9-1 O/U vs. ranked teams, and 8-2-1 O/U as a road favorite.
It’s hard for me to get down on any side because there are quality arguments for both sides. Ohio State owns Michigan since Harbaugh went to Ann Arbor and this Buckeyes squad compares with previous iterations. But, everyone in the market is betting Ohio State, so there’s a fade the market handicapping angle to play here. Plus Michigan is getting 7.5 points at home vs. a true freshman quarterback in college football’s biggest game.
However, there’s value in the Ohio State-Michigan total for various reasons. First of all, Michigan needs to make Ohio State’s offense one-dimensional if it has any chance of winning or covering. The Buckeyes rushed for a combined 218 yards in the only two games Ohio State scored less than 30 points. The two Ohio State opponents that bottled up its ground game were the No. 11 Oregon Ducks and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Well, Michigan’s defense has a better rushing success rate, line yards per snap, and front seven Havoc rate than both of those schools. On top of that, Michigan has one of the best 3rd-down defenses in the country. The Wolverines rank 10th in opponent’s 3rd-down conversion percentage, third in passing down predicted points added (PPA), and eighth in passing down success rate.
On the other hand, Ohio State’s defense actually stacks up better vs. Michigan’s ground game. And the Wolverines don’t have the aerial attack the Buckeyes do. For instance, Ohio State’s defense is sixth in line yards per snap, ninth in rushing PPA, and 23rd in rushing success rate. Whereas Michigan’s offense ranks 53rd in rushing PPA, 37th in rushing success rate, and 62nd in line yards per snap.
Finally, there’s value in bucking the trend of seven straight Overs in Ohio State-Michigan and the line freeze. For example, a vast majority of the market is barreling into the Over but the total hasn’t moved. This tells me that oddsmakers are comfortable with the price they’ve set.
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