Michigan State and Ohio State will face off in Columbus Saturday afternoon, hoping to add a big win to their respective CFP resumes. Oddsmakers have the Spartans as heavy underdogs (+19.5 at BetRivers and FanDuel), but Michigan State has overcome big odds against the Buckeyes in the past.
Can they do it again?
NCAAF · Sat (11/27) @ 12:00pm ET
|Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH|
Our Pick: OSU Ohio State at +7000. Get a $1,000 risk-free bet when you sign up with BetMGM today!
Michigan State Spartans (9-1 SU, 7-2-1 ATS)
Michigan State was not supposed to be a Big Ten or National Championship contender this season. Sparty’s offense was terrible in 2020. It was turnover-prone, struggled to run the ball, and the offensive line allowed way too many plays in the backfield.
But experience has done wonders for the offensive line. After struggling last season, the line ranks second in the conference in sacks and tackles for a loss allowed. They still turn the ball over too much (13), but the most significant difference-maker has been the addition of Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker to the running game.
After averaging 91.4 yards per game in 2020, with Walker leading the way, the run game averages 197.8 yards per game this season, good for fourth in the Big Ten.
Defensively, the Spartans have improved by leaps and bounds compared to 2020. After allowing 35 points a game last year, the defense has held opponents to 22.5 points this season. But their Achilles heel is something Ohio State will have no problem taking advantage of—a dreadful pass defense.
Michigan State has the worst pass defense in the nation.
Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1 SU, 5-4-1 ATS)
After a slow start that included a loss to Oregon in Week Two, the Buckeyes have proven themselves to be one of the best teams in the country. Their offense generates 550.1 yards and 46.3 points a game this season, much of that coming in the passing game (353.6). While the run game is only the fifth-best in the Big Ten, it generates nearly 200 yards a game.
But it is not just about production for the Ohio State offense—they do not make many mistakes. They have committed only eight turnovers this season, the best in the conference. QB C.J.Stroud has been sacked just seven times, and the offensive line allows fewer than three tackles for a loss a game.
However, Stroud and the offense do not deserve all the credit. The defense has buckled down after giving up an average of 470 yards and 29 points in the first three games. Since then, they have allowed an average of 311 yards and 17 points. But that success has come with a healthy amount of criticism.
Are they as good as the stats say they are or have they just feasted on poor teams? Akron, Maryland, Rutgers, and Indiana are a combined 14-26 this season. Nebraska is just 3-7, but the Buckeyes only beat them by nine. Penn State was a quality win, and Purdue gives them a second win over a ranked team—but that’s it.
A win over Michigan State will go a long way towards erasing any doubts the CFP committee may have. But if Michigan State can get Walker on track early, Ohio State could have a challenge on its hands.
Ohio State’s passing game versus Michigan State’s pass defense is enough of a reason to go all-in on the Buckeyes. But history should make bettors think twice before doing so. While Ohio State has owned the series against the Spartans (32-13), nine of those wins have come in Columbus, and four have cost the Buckeyes a shot at the national championship.
Regardless of the side you like here, make sure to shop around the industry for the best number out there. While there may not appear to be much of a reason to bet on the Spartans, it may be a mistake to count them out.