A number of folks have asked for my opinion on The Game – the storied rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State.
While I don’t have an investment on The Game, here are a few things to consider if you’re considering betting on either the Wolverines or Buckeyes:
1. Since arriving in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is 60-5 (.923), including winning all four games vs. the Wolverines. Oh, and Meyer has won a national championship.
2. One of the keys for Ohio State is to make sure junior H-back Curtis Samuel touches the ball at least 13-15 times. Samuel has compiled 1,440 total yards and 14 touchdowns this season and will likely be shadowed by Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers.
3. Ohio State’s lone defeat this season came against Penn State where Samuels was conspicuously absent from the offensive game plan, touching the ball just ten times.
4. Samuels importance to the Buckeyes’ attack cannot be overstated as he’s the only FBS player with 600+ rushing & receiving yards this season. Samuels leads all Power 5 players with an average of 9.9 yards per touch.
5. Michigan leads the nation in scoring defense (10.9), total defense (245.6) & passing yards allowed per game (137). The Wolverines’ defense has allowed just 4 rushing touchdowns & is limiting opponents to zero or negative yardage on 34% of rushing plays this season.
6. Michigan fans have to be concerned about the current form of their offense, which looked lost against both Iowa and Indiana.
In those two contests, the Wolverines ranked 49th in points per drive (1.4), 40th in percentage of drives that result in a scoring play (30.4) and 51st in percentage of drives that result in a punt (52.2). Michigan’s anemic attack also ranked 61st in percentage of drives that result in a three-and-out and punt (39.1).
7. Regardless of whether Wilton Speight or John O’Korn was under center, the Wolverines’ offense stalled over the past two weeks. Speight was 11-for-26 for 103 yards and an interception at Iowa, and O’Korn was 7-for-16 for 59 yards against Indiana.
Speight and O’Korn combined to complete 43% of their pass attempts in those two games. Both quarterbacks were also a combined 1-for-18 on pass attempts traveling ten or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
8. Ohio State’s secondary is one of the best in the country, ranking first in both efficiency and yards per pass attempt (5.4). The Buckeye’s defensive backfield has limited opposing quarterbacks to a completion rate of less than 60% in their past fifteen games, which is the longest-active streak in the FBS by a 5-game margin.
9. More bets have been placed on Michigan to win the national championship than any other team; the Buckeyes are a close second, while Alabama is third, receiving fewer than one-third of the wagers than either Michigan or Ohio State.
10. Ohio State is listed at 5-1 to win the national championship, while Michigan is 12-1 to win it all.
11. Ohio State is 11-1 SU and 9-3 ATS in the past twelve meetings with Michigan. The Buckeyes are 6-5 ATS overall this season, while the Wolverines are 5-6 ATS.
12. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is 110-73 ATS during his tenure with the Buckeyes, including 90-78 ATS as a favorite and 59-41 ATS at home.
13. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is 39-33 ATS in his collegiate coaching career, including 12-15 ATS as an underdog and 13-16 ATS on the road.
14. With both teams dominant at the line of scrimmage, several NFL scouts have stated that the difference in this game will be the mobility of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
“Expect both defensive fronts to control the action along the line of scrimmage, which means the team with the most mobile and athletic quarterback probably wins.”
Finally, Michigan is actually 12-6 ATS in the last eighteen appearances in The Game, although Meyer is 8-0 ATS as a single-digit favorite or underdog. There has not been an outright upset in The Game in the past 11 years!
I lean Ohio State minus 4.5-points in The Game.