They might have backed into the College Football Playoff by virtue of Utah smacking USC in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, but experts are convinced the Ohio State Buckeyes deserve this shot at a national championship.
Rex Beyers, PlayUp USA’s Vegas-based head of wagering, has viewed power ratings from figures he respects and compared them to his — and they’re all on the same wavelength.
“A few points back of Georgia,” Beyers says of the Buckeyes, “and better than Michigan by a few points, and TCU by around 10.”
Says long-time oddsman Dave Sharapan, “By the standards of what it means to get into the playoffs, right now, Ohio State 100 percent belongs. The Buckeyes won all their games except one, and everyone is allowed one bad game.”
At Vegas sportsbooks, No. 1 Georgia (13-0, 7-6 against the spread) opened as a 7-point favorite against No. 4 Ohio State (11-1, 5-7 ATS) in a national semifinal slated for Dec. 31 in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. That has been nudged down to 6.5, and the game’s total is around 60.5.
In the other semifinal, second-ranked Michigan (13-0, 8-5 ATS) has been generally bet down from a 9- to a 7.5-point favorite against No. 3 TCU (12-1, 9-4 ATS) in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
“I believe they do belong,” says BetMGM director of trading Lamarr Mitchell of the Buckeyes. “They were one of the best teams all year long, even though they really didn’t play anyone until they played Michigan. But Michigan is the same way.
“You can’t fault teams for playing who’s on your schedule. But this team, getting to this spot … I think they have the weapons, offensively and defensively, to match up with Georgia here.”
Ohio State vs. Georgia Betting Lines: Point Spread, Total, Moneyline
Here are live odds from around the betting market for Ohio State vs. Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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At BetMGM, the ticket count on the Peach Bowl favors Georgia by a 3-to-1 margin. In money, however, Ohio State is ahead by a 2-1 rate.
“That tells me that the sharp players like Ohio State,” Mitchell says, “but the public likes Georgia.”
Mitchell elaborated on his bullishness on the Buckeyes.
“By the number the sharps are betting, that tells me [the Buckeyes] are a solid play in this game. Michigan is impressive, too. I don’t want to count out Ohio State or Michigan. I would not be surprised by [another] Big Ten championship in the national title game.”
Sharapan melds decades of experience with pragmatic deduction and a matter-of-fact delivery. Alabama (10-2), he says, hardly deserved to play in the national tourney rather than Ohio State.
“Don’t buy that Alabama is better than [the Buckeyes]. I don’t believe Alabama is better than them, and based on power ratings, they aren’t. This line tells you the story. Georgia is favored, so they should win.
“Alabama was favored [by 9] against Tennessee and [by 13.5 against] LSU, and lost both of those games. Things happen. Favorites lose. Dogs win. That’s why we play the games.”
The Westgate SuperBook had +875 on Ohio State to win it all before that Pac-12 title match, and +450 after the Utes’ big victory over the Trojans. By late Tuesday, according to executive director of race and sports John Murray, it had been sliced to +400.
At the South Point, Georgia was +300 to win it all when director Chris Andrews and his team unveiled their odds in early February. By Nov. 19, that had been chiseled to -120, and that shop now has the Dogs at -125.
Following those time slots, Michigan went from 25-1 to +600 to its current +275; Ohio State +500 to +160 (before losing at home to Michigan) to +300; TCU 200-1 to 25-1 to its current 15-1.
The South Point also offered a four-way college football proposition in August, with four teams in three groups and a general “Field” option that included every other team.
Georgia and Michigan (with USC and Oklahoma) were included on rotation number 91403 at an opening price of +250. That became the -150 favorite before the games of Nov. 19.
Ohio State — with Clemson, Oregon, and Texas A&M — occupied number 91402 with a +200 opener, which had moved to +140 before the Nov. 19 action.
Field was number 91404, which would have included TCU. That opened 18-1 in August and had been whittled to +600 by Nov. 19.
Also read: FCS Playoff odds
Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud led the nation with a 176.2 pass-efficiency rating, with 37 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
His top two targets are both among the country’s top-20 receivers in Marvin Harrison Jr. (eighth-ranked 1,157 reception yards, 16.1-yard average, 12 TDs) and Emeka Egbuka (tied-for-18th 1,039 yards, 15.7, 9).
Who might sit out is anyone’s guess. Already, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who entered the season as college football’s No. 1-rated receiver according to Phil Steele, has announced he’ll miss the rest of the season as he prepares for the NFL Draft.
Not that he would have assumed a major role, though. He only played three games this season, catching five passes for 43 yards with no TDs.
Read: How to bet on CFB
So who will sit these out? Anyone interested in betting on the games had best follow the daily reports to know exactly who will suit up in both national semifinals. It might be wise, too, to restrict bowl bets to half-unit plays just to be safe.
Beyers calls the transfer portal an epidemic “that is quickly spiraling out of control.” Combine that with élite talent opting to prep for the NFL Draft rather than help State U maybe win a national title, and he can see the horizon.
“We’re going to have a bowl game canceled in the very near future,” Beyers says. “A team is going to get stuck playing in a Dec. 30 bowl after having top-five aspirations … and coaches will look around and not see enough players to compete.
“It’s going to happen. That’s a WHEN, not an IF, assuming nothing changes with this very flawed system. I would think most of the guys on those four teams are going to give it a go, thankfully. At least we can book those games with some degree of confidence.”