After a three game span that saw the Buckeyes keep inferior opponents in each contest for various reasons, Ohio State (4-0, 0-0 B1G) has opened up as 3-point underdogs for their trip to East Lansing this Saturday afternoon to face Michigan State (3-1, 0-0 B1G). The Over/Under for this weekend’s game has opened at a reasonably low +43.5.
If you’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks I’ve aligned this Wednesday morning post with our new betting line feature within the Empire Lounge over in the forum. Last week’s match-up with Alabama-Birmingham showed us just how far off the Las Vegas odds makers can be at times, even with an amazingly accurate performance overall.
The folks who get paid handsomely to dole out odds on hundreds of sporting events on a daily basis typically turn a few billion dollars in worldwide bets into a few million for the casinos or offshore sportsbooks who employee them. The 37-point underdog Blazers tried their best on Saturday to put a few of them out of work, losing by only two touchdowns to the heavily favored Buckeyes.
On the other hand many thought the Over/Under posted at numerous books was astonishingly low – at +57.5 for the combined total points – but the odds makers were paid nicely against all of the Over bets when Ohio State and UAB combined for only forty-four.
This brings us to the Buckeyes’ B1G opener this Saturday in East Lansing, where the Scarlet and Gray will try to avenge last year’s hard-to-watch, 10-7 home defeat at the hands of Mark Dantonio and his Spartans.
The Buckeyes are at near full health, with Jordan Hall now back into the swing of things and RB Carlos Hyde cleared to play after two weeks of rest from a knee sprain he suffered against Central Florida. That said, Urban Meyer and his squad are still trying to find their groove in a new offensive system while Luke Fickell and Everett Withers are trying to find a spark to get their Silver Bullets back to their dominant ways on the defensive side of the ball.
In the meantime, Dantonio and his Spartans have a few issues of their own. Michigan State may have a solid win over a ranked Boise State team under their belts, along with two convincing wins over directionalMichiganschools, but that 20-3 defeat at home against Notre Dame is still looming in the eyes of the odds makers. With a win against the Irish, Sparty likely hosts the Buckeyes as 7-10 point favorites, but as it stands they’ll enter as only 3-point favorites – a number usually gifted to the home team in football games on all levels.
So what does that say about Saturday? Las Vegas thinks the two teams are extremely evenly matched. Let’s dive into a little history.
#14 OHIO STATE
Simply put, Ohio State has been pitiful against the spread through four games of the Urban Meyer era inColumbus. After opening against Miami (OH) as 25.5-point favorites and coming out with a 46-point win, the Bucks have since gone 0-3 against the spread in three wins that were more tightly contested than anyone had anticipated.
The Bucks have split the Over/Under in their four wins of 2012, combining with Miami (OH) to topple the +50.5 posted at kickoff as well as with Cal to best the +55.0 set as the O/U in week three.
The most recent win for the Under came last Saturday when the Bucks faced UAB as 37.5-point favorites with an O/U of an even 60. Combining those two betting lines would tell us thatOhioStateshould have won with a score somewhere around 49-10. The Blazers held up their end of the bargain – their blocked punt for a touchdown helped them get to 15 – but Ohio State fell three touchdowns short of their projected total.
By contrast, the odds makers were nearly spot on in the Buckeyes’ other game in which the Under prevailed – their 31-16 besting of UCF as 15.5-point favorites with an O/U of +50.0 in week two (OSU won by 15 and the total points scored was 46).
With the fourteen-point victory over UAB on Saturday – as 37.5-point favorites – the Buckeyes are now 3-7 against the spread over their last ten games, dating back to their thrilling 33-29 win against Wisconsin in Ohio Stadium last October.
On the other hand, the Over is a respectable 6-4 over the same time period, although the Under has prevailed in three of the last five Ohio State games, speaking directly to the offensive struggles of late – at least against expectation.
#20 MICHIGAN STATE
The Spartans, similar to Ohio State, are also 1-3 this season against the spread. They’ve been favored in each of their four games and only covered the -18.0 spread as favorites when they traveled to Central Michigan in week two and came home with a 41-7 win.
They were favored by 8.5-points in their opener against Boise State and won by only four; hosted Notre Dame in week three as a 4.5-point favorite and lost straight up to the Irish 20-3; and Sparty was favored last weekend by 31.5 when they hosted Eastern Michigan and only managed to put 23 points on the board against the Eagles.
Michigan State’s O/U outcomes are even more alarming, with the Under winning three of the four match-ups in 2012 and the fourth ending in a push. This speaks to one of two things (or both): the Spartans aren’t scoring at the pace the odds makers expect them to, and/or their defense is holding up better than expected.
Throw out MSU’s 41-point performance against 1-3 Central Michigan and the Spartans have yet to score more than 23 in any contest, including being held to a lone field goal at home against Notre Dame two weeks ago.
Dig a little bit deeper into Michigan State’s recent history against the odds makers and you’ll see that they’ve performed reasonably well against the spread with a respectable 6-4 record over their last ten – including covering the spread in five straight contests to end the 2011-12 season.
The Over is 5-4-1 inMichiganState’s last ten games dating back to their 31-24 win over Minnesota last November with an O/U of +46.5.
The Buckeyes and Spartans have faced off ten times since 1998 and Ohio State has been favored in nine of those contests. The one game in which the Buckeyes entered the stadium as underdogs came thirteen years ago when Michigan State was 5.5-point favorites and covered that with a 23-7 win in East Lansing.
Five different times over that stretch the Bucks were single-digit favorites, when the two teams were most evenly matched, and covered the point spread four of those times (’03, ’04, ’05 and ’08).
The two most recent were nearly as close as you’ll find in college football sportsbooks, with Ohio State being favored by 3.5-points in their 45-7 win in East Lansing two seasons ago, and the Bucks being favored by just three as hosts last season when Michigan State handed them their first conference loss of 2011 with a 10-7 win in Columbus.
The Over/Under in recent history of the head-to-head match-up has consistently fallen between +42.0 and +51.0, a generally low number for college football O/U’s but right on par for B1G play. The Over vs Under has come out at 4-4-1 over the last nine meetings (no O/U was established for the 1998 game). Seven out of the nine times the total points fell within ten on one side or the other of the posted O/U.
TRENDS – AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
- Buckeyes are 22-7 against the spread (ATS) in their last 29 games on grass
- Buckeyes are 25-9-1 ATS in their last 35 road games
- Buckeyes are 18-7-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record
- Buckeyes are 42-18-1 ATS in their last 61 conference games
- Buckeyes are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall
- Spartans are 4-0 against the spread (ATS) in their last 4 conference games
- Spartans are 5-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record
TRENDS – OVER/UNDER
- Under is 6-1-1 in Buckeyes last 8 games on grass
- Over is 4-1 in Buckeyes last 5 conference games
- Under is 8-3 in Buckeyes last 11 vs. a team with a winning record
- Under is 10-4-2 in Buckeyes last 16 road games
- Under is 3-0-1 in Spartans last 4 games overall
- Under is 6-1-1 in Spartans last 8 games in September
- Under is 4-1 in Spartans last 5 games on grass
- Over is 4-1 in Spartans last 5 conference games
#14 OHIO STATE vs. #20 MICHIGAN STATE – Saturday, October 29th – 3:30pm
So where do all of these numbers leave us for Saturday? That’s an easy answer – LOST.
Ohio State has dominated this series over the past decade, losing straight up only once since 2000 (last year’s 10-7 loss in the Shoe). The Buckeyes have also dominated the point spread over the same time period, failing to cover only once (last year) in eight tries since ’00.
All of that said, both teams have underperformed in 2012, at least with respect to how the odds makers predict each game. They’re a combined 2-6 against the spread this season and the Under has won five of the eight combined contests the two teams have played through four weeks.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
From the Michigan State perspective, you’re coming off of a big win in Columbus a year ago so you have the series momentum and you’re now facing a team in transition. You also get them at home this time around, and only have -3.0 to cover as far as the spread goes.
The Buckeyes are coming to town minus the stout defense you’re used to seeing and have shown recent patterns of the inability to wrap up and tackle on a consistent basis. This can bode well for junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who has already amassed 610 yards on the ground in four games this season, but the Buckeyes will almost certainly key on the run and force you to put the ball in the air with inexperience at the quarterback position as well as within your group of pass catchers.
For those of you on the Ohio State side of the rooting interest, this isn’t a bad spot for the Buckeyes. Home teams in football are generally awarded with 3 points towards the spread simply for playing at home. With the current odds sitting in MSU’s favor at exactly -3.0, the odds makers are already telling us this is a very even match-up.
But there are some definite benefits for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Yes, they’re a team still in transition as they play for their third head coach in the last eighteen games dating back to Jim Tressel’s last game, the 2011 Sugar Bowl. But there have already been flashes of greatness out of Urban Meyer’s new system inColumbus over the past four weeks.
Braxton Miller has been a shining star within an offense that at times has looked much more like the 6-7 Buckeyes of last year than any of Meyer’sFloridateams of the past. But the day is coming when the light bulb finally comes on in this young team’s collective head and the offense begins to roll.
Hall and Hyde should be suited up together at full strength for the first time this season come Saturday afternoon. Philly Brown is finding the niche in the offense all of Buckeye Nation hoped he would and Devin Smith has shown the ability to make big plays when it counts. If ever there were a time for those four to step up and lend a hand to their sophomore signal caller, it would be Saturday.
Play time is over, Buckeyes. The struggles we’ve seen the last three weeks simply won’t get it done this time around. The time for “grown man football” is now.
Will the Bucks pull it out or do Bell and the Spartan offense have enough to cover -3.0 on Saturday? Las Vegas has already told us what they think. Now it’s time for the Buckeyes and Spartans to do all of the talking.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Jonathan Hankins, John Simon, Ryan Shazier and the rest of the Silver Bullets must find a way to hold Le’Veon Bell under 100 yards rushing, just as Notre Dame (77) and Central Michigan (70) did, rather than allowing him to pile up 200+ as he did against Boise St. and Eastern Michigan, and the Spartans will have no other answers to turn to.
If the Buckeyes can get on the board with a couple of scores early, which they’ve not yet been prone to do, they’ll force Michigan State into their obvious weakness – the passing game – and can unleash Simon, Hankins, Adolphus Washington and the bunch into the offensive backfield.
If Ohio State can’t find some resemblance of consistency on offense and get behind early, they’re going to get a steady dose of Bell to the tune of 35-45 carries just as Boise State and Eastern Michigan received in weeks one and four, both Michigan State victories.
Ohio State covers +3.0 as the underdog and wins outright, 23-17
> Make your predictions on the MAIN EVENT in the Empire Lounge >