It’s finally here. We’re only days away from The Game — Ohio State at Michigan, of course — and unlike most of the folks who actually aren’t Ohio State alumni on social media, we won’t be crossing out our Ms for this story.
… If only Ohio sports betting was available for us to wager on our back-talk.
In case you aren’t aware, Ohioans can’t bet on sports just yet. Although progress is being regularly touted among state lawmakers, time is ticking if a bill is to be passed before the end of the calendar and for a potential spring 2022 launch date for the sector to be realized.
All the same, after 11 weeks of football, both the Buckeyes and Wolverines into The Game with 10-1 overall records. And for the first time in a while, there are serious implications. A trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Conference championship game and a continued place in the College Football Playoff discussion are on the line.
Here’s a look at the showdown as if you were interested in making those first wagers (and we’ll point you to ways to do so in other states before we’re through.)
Oddsmakers see another Ohio State romp, even on road
These are the stakes Michigan has wanted, and they’re hoping to be competitive. Ohio State, meanwhile, is at risk for not only its Big Ten title shot but also that top-four national semifinal berth.
The oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook think the situation is still stacked against the Wolverines, putting them as a 7.5-point home underdog to begin the week. That number has since swelled closer to a two-score game, although Michigan is 9-2 against the spread this season.
On the moneyline, or in terms of a picking a winner straight-up, Ohio State is a -320 or so favorite. That number means that you would have to wager $320 on Ohio State winning the game outright in order to make a $100 profit. The Wolverines, meanwhile, are in the +240 range, meaning that a successful $100 bet on Michigan to win would net $240 in profit.
The over/under, or point total, was set at 63 points, which means legal sportsbooks could be eyeing a shootout in the making. So far this season, though, just three of Michigan’s games have had more combined points than Saturday’s early total, according to statistics from athletics data firm SportRadar.
Michigan hasn’t covered a spread against Ohio State since 2017, when the worst team (8-5) under head coach Jim Harbaugh was a 12-point underdog and barely covered the number in a 31-20 defeat.
Bummed out that you can’t legally bet on sports yet in Ohio? Well, depending on your location, you’ve got options in almost every geographical direction. On the eastern side of the state, head over to our friends in West Virginia or Pennsylvania to get registered for online sports bettings.
In northern Ohio or on the western side, check out your options in either Michigan or Indiana for legal sports wagering. Further still, physically drive to a retail casino in any of those states and place a bet in a sportsbook the old-fashioned way.
How to watch: Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines
- What: No. 4 Ohio State (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten) at No. 6 Michigan (10-1, 7-1)
- When: Noon ET, Saturday, Nov. 27
- Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
- TV: Fox (Announcers: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
- Online livestream: Fox Sports App
- Radio: Ohio State Sports Network
Can Jim Harbaugh finally beat the Buckeyes?
In his seven years at the helm for Michigan, Harbaugh has had plenty of memorable moments. The ultimate prizes haven’t arrived relative to the splash of Harbaugh’s name cache. But, his consistency and his ability to recruit top talent to the university has given him a bit of job security going forward, albeit with a restructured contract beginning with this season.
Still, the pressure has been on Harbaugh as the wins have built, as Michigan fans are being reminded that the program is used to being historically great, not just good. The athletic department brought him in to turn the Wolverines into a national powerhouse and so far, he’d failed to do so. Until this year, anyway.
Sure, Michigan has had a few tight wins and a huge meltdown against in-state rival Michigan State. But, a win over Ohio State could put Harbaugh and the Wolverines on the precipice of making the College Football Playoffs for the first time in the program’s history.
The only thing standing in his way? Ohio State, Michigan’s most hated rival and a team that Harbaugh has never defeated. He will likely have to outcoach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes because that aforementioned job security could still somewhat be at stake, too. It’s definitely worth something to consider as Harbaugh and his Wolverines host the Buckeyes as heavy underdogs.
The last time Michigan won The Game was in 2011, when Brady Hoke ended a seven-year drought against Ohio State with a 40-34 win in Ann Arbor. With the 2021 matchup taking place at the Big House, this year will mark the first time since 1903 that back-to-back editions of the rivalry game have taken place in Michigan. The 2020 game was canceled as a complication during the coronavirus pandemic and would otherwise have been in Columbus.
If you count 2010’s vacated win, the Buckeyes have taken 15 of the past 16 rivalry games against the Wolverines.
Wolverines running wild in Ann Arbor
The strength of the Michigan offense has undoubtedly come on the ground. The Wolverines possess the 15th-best rushing offense in the country with an average of 218.4 yards per game, more than 20 yards more than the Buckeyes’ own average in 2021.
The damage comes from the two-headed running back pairing of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, who have combined to rack up 1,841 yards and 23 touchdowns thus far. Corum will be a name to keep an eye on throughout this week, as the second-year rusher has not played in either of the past two games because of an ankle injury.
Corum had the hot hand of the two backs early in the season, rushing for at least 100 yards in each of the first three games while accruing seven scores on the ground, but the Wolverines have ridden Haskins more in the back half of the year. Since Oct. 9, Haskins has rushed for 100 yards in four separate games and has scored seven touchdowns in that six-game stretch.
Ohio State’s run defense ranks 11th-best in the country, and the Buckeyes did not struggle to shut down Doak Walker Award frontrunner Kenneth Walker III this past weekend. But Michigan managed to rush for 112 yards and a score against Wisconsin, which has the top run defense in the country.
Due to the Wolverines’ run-heavy approach on offense, the passing game has been lackluster. Michigan has the No. 15 scoring offense and No. 23 total offense in the country, but through the air, the Wolverines’ average of 229.5 passing yards per game ranks at No. 71 in college football. But, when Michigan piles up more than 355.7 yards on offense, the team is 9-1 against the spread, per SportRadar.
The only time Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara has topped the 300-yard mark was against Michigan State and the nation’s worst pass defense. Besides that, McNamara has failed to throw for 200 yards on seven occasions this season.
McNamara has been relatively efficient, nonetheless, having thrown just two interceptions against 14 touchdowns this season. It should be worth noting that Ohio State has the No. 94 ranked passing defense in football this season.
Boom or bust for Ohio State
The Buckeyes have only played one total defense that currently ranks higher than Michigan’s. They amassed 495 yards of offense on Minnesota’s fourth-ranked total defense in the season opener. And the Buckeyes average 559.5 yards per game, more than 250 above the roughly 307 yards the Wolverines give up.
Ohio State also scored 33 points on its only opponent with a better scoring defense than the Wolverines, notching a nine-point win over Penn State and the nation’s No. 4 scoring defense.
No opponent Ohio State has faced thus far has allowed as few passing yards as the Wolverines, who have held eight of the 11 teams they’ve played thus far under 200 yards through the air. No team has tallied more than 293 passing yards against Michigan in any game this season.
It’s hard to overhype the stakes for the Buckeyes. Not only will Ohio State not play in the Big Ten title game if they fall to their bitter rival, but their chances at the College Football Playoff likely end as well. And Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud, who helped his Heisman Trophy case against Michigan State, probably loses any favor gained if Michigan’s defense remains consistent.