Michigan vs. Ohio State prediction: Grab the points with the Wolverines
Much-anticipated battle of Big Ten unbeatens will be closer than the experts think, thanks to Michigan’s fierce defense
Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, at least one relative who overstays his welcome and … Michigan vs. Ohio State.
Thanksgiving Weekend just wouldn’t be the same without any of these traditions. And this year, the latter tradition is shaping up to be one for the ages.
For just the third time in the 117-year history of their storied rivalry, No. 3 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State come into “The Game” with top-three national rankings. They also come into Saturday’s battle with pristine 11-0 records. And — like last season — a guaranteed berth in next month’s College Football Playoff is riding on the outcome.
Even though both squads are undefeated, bookmakers give a decided edge to the Buckeyes, who are favored by more than a touchdown at home.
Are the Wolverines, who stunned Ohio State 42-27 as a 6.5-point home underdog a year ago, being disrespected again? Or are the Buckeyes poised to avenge last year’s defeat with their fifth double-digit blowout of Michigan in the last seven meetings?
Here’s our Michigan vs. Ohio State prediction for this colossal clash of college football powerhouses.
Note: Odds updated as of 1 a.m. ET on Nov. 24.
Michigan vs. Ohio State Prediction
Michigan +7.5 (at FanDuel)
Michigan vs. Ohio State Prediction: Analysis
Let’s start with the similarities, because there are many.
In addition to their unblemished overall straight-up records, both Michigan (6-4-1 ATS) and Ohio State (5-5-1 ATS) have delivered average results for bettors. And both sit directly behind fellow-unbeaten and No. 1 Georgia on the national championship odds board.
Ohio State has won all of its games by double digits (including six by more than 30 points). Michigan has nine double-digit victories (including five by more than 30 points). And yet both squads got big scares last week.
The Wolverines needed a last-second field goal to beat Illinois 19-17 as a 17.5-point home favorite, while Ohio State had to battle to the end at Maryland, winning 43-30 as a 26.5-point road favorite. (The Buckeyes only led 33-30 with less than a minute to play.)
And finally — and most importantly — both are dealing with key injuries in their respective offensive backfields.
Wolverines tailback and Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum — who averages 132.5 rushing yards per game and has scored 18 touchdowns — hurt his knee late in the first half against Illinois. He returned for two snaps, then departed for good.
Additionally, Donovan Edwards — who is Corum’s primary backup — sat out last week’s game with an undisclosed injury.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson — who have rushed for a combined 1,354 rushing yards and 19 TDs — are dealing with lower-body injuries.
Not surprisingly, both Buckeyes coach Ryan Day and Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh have been tight-lipped this week about the status of all four players. So it’s truly unknown which (if any) will be on the field Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
One group we absolutely know will be on the field, however, is Michigan’s incredibly dominant defense.
The Wolverines lead all of FBS in total defense (241.3 yards per game allowed); they’re second in scoring defense (11.7 points per game allowed) and rushing defense (79.5 ypg); and fifth in passing defense (161.7 ypg).
It’s a stop unit unlike any Ohio State has seen the season. Of course, you could flip that around and say the Buckeyes’ prolific offense is unlike any Michigan has seen.
That’s absolutely true. But as the old adage goes, defense wins championships. And the fact is only one team has scored more than 17 points against the Wolverines. That was Maryland, which lost 34-27 in Ann Arbor back in Week 4.
However, the Terrapins only had 13 points going into the fourth quarter. They also scored a meaningless touchdown with 45 seconds remaining in the game.
Without question, the best offense Michigan faced this season was Penn State, which averages 36 points per game (19th best in the nation). The Nittany Lions have put up at least 30 points in nine of 11 contests (including 31 against Ohio State).
However, they produced just 17 points against the Wolverines in mid-October — and seven of those came on an interception return for a touchdown.
Admittedly, Ohio State’s offense — which ranks in the top 15 nationally in every meaningful category — is better than Penn State’s. And quarterback C.J. Stroud, who shredded the Wolverines for 394 passing yards in last year’s loss, will be the best player Michigan’s D has seen this season.
But even though Stroud will surely make some big plays Saturday, this Wolverines stop unit is far superior to the one he faced in Ann Arbor 365 days ago. And even though this game is Columbus, we know that defense travels.
That’s why our only concern with backing Michigan revolves around its offense — and, namely, the potential absence of Corum.
The junior running back is a legit playmaker and game-changer. And he takes a ton of pressure off a putrid Michigan passing “attack” that barely averages 200 yards per game.
However, the Buckeyes defense showed some serious vulnerabilities both last week at Maryland and in a 44-31 win at Penn State (a game that was far closer than the final score indicates). In fact, even with its high-flying offense, Ohio State actually has been outgained in three of its last four games.
Bottom line: We flat-out disagree with the oddsmakers’ take on this showdown, as these teams are much more evenly matched than the point spread suggests. And we could easily see Michigan’s defense making a handful of big, momentum-swinging plays that give the offense a short field.
Note this, too: While Ohio State had won eight straight meetings in this rivalry prior to last season, the underdog has covered the point spread four of the past five years and six of the past eight.
The Wolverines were the underdog in seven of those eight clashes. And they went 5-2 ATS.
Grab the points with Michigan at FanDuel — and don’t be surprised if Harbaugh’s troops are in position to win it late in the fourth quarter.
Michigan vs. Ohio State Odds (via FanDuel)
Point spread: Michigan (+7.5) @ Ohio State (-7.5)
Moneyline: Michigan (+235) @ Ohio State (-295)
Total: 56.5 points (Over -105/Under -115)
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