One of the best rivalry matchups in college football has as high of stakes as ever this year. The Game essentially serves as an unofficial play-in game for the College Football Playoff, when the Ohio State Buckeyes square off with the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday.
Both Ohio State and Michigan carry unblemished 11-0 records and are currently in the College Football Playoff entering this week’s matchup. It is understood that the winner will earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game, while the loser is unlikely to be considered for a semifinal spot this season.
Last year, the Wolverines got the better of the Buckeyes with a 42-27 victory in Ann Arbor. It snapped an eight-game losing streak in this rivalry and helped propel Michigan to a trip to last year’s CFP before losing to Georgia in the Orange Bowl.
The Buckeyes are favored to avenge last year’s defeat with Saturday’s matchup taking place in Columbus. But both teams proved last weekend that they aren’t invincible, however, with Ohio State holding off Maryland for a 43-30 win and Michigan needing a strong fourth quarter in its 19-17 victory over Illinois.
Caesars Sportsbook is giving the edge to Ohio State, listing the hosts as a 7.5-point favorite with an over/under of 57.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines
Time/TV: Noon ET Saturday, FOX
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Ohio State -7.5
Money line: Michigan +240/Ohio State -305
Analysis: Until last year’s outcome, The Game had been mostly one-sided of late. Ohio State holds a 52-48-4 all-time series lead, which includes a 17-3 clip over the last 20 meetings between these schools.
But Saturday’s matchup is especially compelling, and not just because of what is at stake. Both these teams looked beatable last weekend, though perhaps there was some element of looking ahead to this matchup for both programs.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Buckeyes a 71.8% chance of winning, and it is easy to see why when you look at their offensive numbers. Ohio State is second in the nation in scoring with an average of 46.5 points per game, led by Heisman favorite C.J. Stroud at quarterback.
Early money has been backing the Wolverines and their elite defense, pushing the spread down from its opener of -9. This unit is giving up an average of 11.7 points per game, which ranks second in the country.
Something truly has to give on Saturday, but ultimately Ohio State should avenge last year’s defeat.
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 27