Ohio State vs. Michigan State Prediction, Over/Under Pick, and Latest Odds

Ohio State vs. Michigan St. prediction, over/under pick, and latest odds from college football expert Alex Kirshner. How does this Big Ten showdown play out?
Alex Kirshner
Mon, November 15, 7:38 AM EST

Ohio State vs. Michigan State Prediction, Over/Under Pick, and Latest Odds

Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes 

Spread: Ohio State -18

Total: 68

Game Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: ABC

Click Here For Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Odds

Ohio State vs. Michigan State Prediction

Saturday’s Michigan State-Ohio State meeting in Columbus is not quite a de-facto Big Ten Championship, but it’s one of the biggest regular-season games in college football this year. Both teams enter Week 12 with firm control of their own fates; either will win the Big Ten and make the Playoff by winning out. Both could also still fall a long way, given that both teams have non-automatic finales next week: Michigan State hosts Penn State, and Ohio State visits Michigan in a version of The Game that seems less a formality than most years.

So both teams will throw the kitchen sink this week. At full-throttle, Ohio State should be significantly better than MSU. But the Buckeyes have been underwhelming against competitive teams all season, not just in a loss to Oregon but in halting wins against Penn State and Nebraska (which isn’t necessarily good but has been competitive in every game all year). Projection systems like Bill Connelly’s SP+ and ESPN’s Football Power Index forecast a double-digit Ohio State win, but it’s worth wondering if the Buckeyes can make that stand up.

In light of that, the thing I’m most confident in isn’t the scoring margin, but the total. I think this game will be more of an offensive slog than oddsmakers do, and I see the most value in the under. This feels more like a high-50s or low-60s game than something in the high 60s  and even if the total falls some during the week, I don’t think it’ll fall enough for me to like the over.

This rationale starts with Ohio State’s offense, which has been gangbusters against the Big Ten East’s bottomfeeders (Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana) but underwhelming against everyone else. The Buckeyes have not put together dominant offensive showings against good defenses, and Michigan State probably has one. The Spartans are 18th in Defensive SP+, and other than getting gashed by Purdue two weeks ago, they’ve been solid or better all season. They’re especially good at keeping a lid on big pass plays, which might be the single most valuable trait a defense can have against an offense with C.J. Stroud, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson.

Of course, Ohio State can hurt defenses in a wide variety of ways, but the MSU-run defense has also fared pretty well in preventing explosive carries. That’s equally critical against the most impressive big-play back in the country, TreVeyon Henderson, and it points toward a lower output than usual for an OSU offense that averages 46 points per game (but, so far, just 30.5 in its two games against opponents ranked at the time, Oregon and Penn State).

On the other side of the ball, I don’t expect Michigan State to be especially good. Kenneth Walker III is a bonafide Heisman candidate running back, but there’s only so much that can be done against an Ohio State defensive line that will frequently meet him close to the line of scrimmage. It’s not that Walker won’t do anything –– he’s one of the country’s best backs at creating his own space –– but that he probably will not rev it up like he so often has this year. MSU quarterback Payton Thorne will have a lot on his shoulders, and I feel comfortable betting that he’ll struggle under pressure from Tyreke Smith, Zachary Harrison, and the Buckeye front.

The game context also points toward the under. Neither team is an offensive pace machine; Michigan State is 98th in FBS in plays per game, and Ohio State is 68th. And to whatever extent the November weather in Columbus weighs on the outcome (which might not be much, as the forecast calls for clear conditions), it probably won’t be to encourage high-flying passing. I like the chances that both teams take it slow and don’t light up the scoreboard. 

Ohio State vs. Michigan State Pick

Alex Kirshner
alex_kirshner
Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.
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