Ohio State vs. Michigan Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines
Spread: Ohio State -7.5
Game time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where to Watch: FOX
Ohio State vs. Michigan Prediction
Like it was meant to be, at least according to fans of the involved teams,, The Game will be for everything. When Ohio State and Michigan play on Saturday in Ann Arbor, the Big Ten East will be on the line, and the winner will be a win over Wisconsin away from an assured spot in the College Football Playoff. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day has been on bigger stages, given that he coached in a national title game 10-and-a-half months ago. But Jim Harbaugh’s latest shot at his rival is also the latest game in his career that you could credibly call the biggest game of his career. (At least in college; Harbaugh coached in a Super Bowl, but I’m not sure that was any bigger to him than finally getting over an Ohio State hump that’s flummoxed him since he arrived at UM in 2015.)
Michigan and Ohio State have been a sure thing to go over the point total for a while now. The over has hit every year since 2013 –– seven games in a row, given 2020’s COVID-related cancelation –– which suggests bettors are invested in a narrative of grind-it-out, defensive football that rarely holds up. But the totals for these games have never exceeded 57 and have usually maxed out in the low 50s, and this year, the number is 64.5. That’s enough of a difference that I’m not going to be enticed by a long-range head-to-head betting trend, which I usually prefer to stay away from anyway. I just don’t feel comfortable with it.
So, the spread. It’d be easy to get caught thinking Michigan is an automatic bad bet, because the Wolverines have beaten the Buckeyes once in 17 years and become a second-class citizen in a rivalry that no longer has any parity. Don’t let yourself do that, though. Since an 0-6 ATS streak against OSU from 2007 to 2012, the Wolverines are 4-3 against the number against their archrival, despite losing all of those games straight-up. Those covers have come with little spreads and big ones, leaving Michigan +7.5 as a real consideration.
The primary reason I’m intrigued by Michigan isn’t anything to do with years-old betting data, though. It’s that if you can put aside preconceptions about how every Michigan team finds a way to blow it against Ohio State, there’s a ton to like about the 2021 Wolverines. They’re fourth in SP+, which projects them as something like a five-point underdog (rather than 7.5) on their own field against the Buckeyes. OSU is second in that metric, behind Georgia.
By a huge margin, Ohio State will have the best offense Michigan faces all season. But it’s not worthless to point out that Michigan’s defense has been one of the sport’s most consistent from wire to almost wire. Only two teams have moved the ball efficiently against the Wolverines: Nebraska (which did it primarily through the air) and Michigan State (which did it with an otherworldly ground performance from running back Kenneth Walker III, whose offensive line got beat by Michigan’s front and needed to lean on an all-world game from Walker). Michigan has arguably college football’s best defensive end in Aidan Hutchinson and a secondary with a couple of likely NFL players, and that unit has had strong pass defense efforts almost every week. Ohio State destroyed Michigan State’s secondary last week by finding holes in the Spartans’ safety alignment, but prior to that, the Buckeyes hadn’t been that explosive against the above-average defenses on their schedule. It’s not a ridiculous notion at all that Michigan will give C.J. Stroud, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson a much harder time.
The Michigan offense was a laggard for most of the season, but it’s gotten into better form lately, too. By expected points added per play, Week 12’s win against Maryland was the offense’s best showing of the Big Ten season, according to GameOnPaper.com. Quarterback Cade McNamara, who floundered a bit early in conference play after a torrid September, has played four of his best games over the last month. And if you’re the type of person who needs players to prove themselves in big moments, he played a sturdy game and led a fourth-quarter comeback on the road at Penn State just two weeks ago. I think he’s better than the usual interchangeable quarterbacks Harbaugh has fielded, and I think he can score a bit this week.
The Wolverines might not slay their demons this week. But getting a touchdown or more, they don’t have to do that for us to make a little money picking them.
Ohio State vs. Michigan Pick
- Pick: Michigan +7.5 @ -110