Time: 11 AM (CT)
Spread: OSU -5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Ah, finally the Big Ten rivalry game Michigan and Ohio State fans have been anticipating this season and every season. Ohio State plays host this year to Michigan as the teams vie for the Big Ten Championship, and also the chance to keep themselves afloat in the bid for a BCS playoff berth.
The Buckeyes enter the game as 5-point favorites, but 10-1 Michigan has been rolling all season too on the strength of a stringent defense that surrenders just 10.9 points per game (ranking No. 1 in the nation). The total is set low at 44.5, in what could be a defensive struggle between two schools with plenty of pride on the line in this affair.
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Michigan’s lone loss this season came two weeks ago to the Iowa Hawkeyes, as Michigan fell 14-13 to a then-6-4 Iowa team that truthfully is not that great this season.
Quarterback Wilton Speight struggled badly in that game, completing just 11 of 26 for 103 yards and Michigan averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the game. Its defense was on point as usual, but Iowa was able to connect on a last-second field goal to escape with the improbable underdog victory. It was not a game that has been emblematic of Michigan’s season, but it showed some vulnerabilities that Ohio State will look to exploit this week.
Speight has thrown for 2,156 yards at a 62.3 percent clip with 15 TDs and four interceptions, while posting a passer rating of 148.9. However, he is facing a collarbone injury which has left his status entirely uncertain for this game.
De’Veon Smith and Chris Evans have both been successful on the ground, as has No. 3 back Ty Isaac. The Wolverines are averaging 5.2 yards per carry as a team, while Evans is the best of the bunch (of those with more than 50 carries on the year) at 7.4 yards per attempt.
Smith leads the team in yardage with 750, and he also holds the team lead in rushing TDs with 10. Michigan has rushed for 39 TDs on the season while completing just 17 TD passes.
Most of those TD passes have gone to top receiver Amara Darboh. Darboh has 758 yards on 44 receptions, averaging 17.2 yards per catch and has a 46-yard TD to his credit as one of his six TDs this season. Jake Butt and Jehu Chesson have also both been effective in combining for over 900 yards and six more TDs between them.
It also helps the Wolverines that kicker Kenny Allen has been 14 of 18 FGA, but he is just 2 of 4 beyond 40-yards, so he does need them to really get it in range for him to be effective. Then, he has also nailed all 49 of his PATs.
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Ohio State suffered a scare in narrowly getting by Michigan State last week despite being heavy favorites in the affair. The Buckeyes won 17-16 as Mike Weber ran for 111 yards and a TD, and the Spartans missed a 2-point conversion in trying to pull the impressive upset. That left 4:41 on the clock, but OSU managed it well and emerged with its fourth straight victory.
JT Barrett struggled badly. The quarterback was just 10 of 22 for 86 yards with a lone TD, and his quarterback rating was a paltry 37.3. He was a lot more successful on the ground in rushing for 105 yards on 24 carries, but Weber really bailed OSU out in this one.
Barrett had completed 60-percent or better of his passes in four straight weeks before last week’s disastrous 45.5 percent clip, but last week was his most successful rushing week since Week 5 against Indiana. Putting the two together and being dominant in both aspects seems like the formula to defeating Michigan, but it will not be easy against their ultra stingy defense.
The Wolverines are capable of shutting down even elite running backs, so Barrett will have to keep his options open and thrown the ball well for OSU to emerge as the 5-point favorites it is in this absolutely vital game to both teams.