According to the oddsmakers, ‘The Game’ might more resemble ‘The Blowout’ this coming Saturday when the 2-4 Michigan Wolverines visit the 5-0 Ohio State Buckeyes inside Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is at noon Eastern.
This matchup is filled with intriguing subplots, with the actual on-field play probably representing the least compelling. An Ohio State victory secures their spot in the Big Ten Championship. A Michigan loss could spell the end of the Jim Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor.
And that’s all dependent on the game actually being played. Ohio State was forced to cancel their contest with Illinois two weeks ago, and Michigan scrapped their game with Maryland this past weekend, both on account of covid outbreaks.
The Wolverines hope to get back to the practice field this week after pausing all team activities amidst a rise in positive COVID-19 tests before their scheduled meeting with the Terps. As noted, Harbaugh is planted firmly on the hot seat, and this could be his final crack against the Buckeyes, the rival program he has yet to beat in five chances. There are already rumors of a return to the NFL, so the outcome may not even get a chance to determine his future in maize and blue.
Michigan’s lone wins this year have come against Minnesota and Rutgers, and they’re set to finish the season under .500 for the first time since 2014. That was the program’s final year under Brady Hoke before he was dismissed in favor of Harbaugh. The Wolverines’ last win over Ohio State came in 2011, Hoke’s first year at the helm.
Ohio State Outlook
The Buckeyes got back to the action with a dominating win over Michigan State this past weekend, despite missing 23 players due to COVID-19 protocols. The cancellation of two of their games likely removes Justin Fields from the final Heisman running (a race led by Mac Jones and Kyle Trask), but the junior quarterback still leads the Big Ten in touchdown passes and is second in passing yards.
A third cancellation would theoretically result in conference championship ineligibility, as the Big Ten declared for the season that a team must play a minimum of six games to compete in the game. However, if the average number of games played by each team within the conference is less than six, Ohio State could still qualify.
Betting Line and Pick
As noted, Ohio State has been installed as heavy favorites, laying 30 points against their rival, with an over/under of 67.5. It’s the largest spread in the series since 1978, with the previous high coming in 2014 when Ohio State won by 14 as 21-point favorites.
Michigan has never been an underdog of this magnitude in any game since ‘78 as well, when they were 24.5-point dogs to Penn State in 2008, ultimately losing by 29.
Ohio State is desperate for this game to be played to advance to the Big Ten title game, and ultimately keep hold of their Top 4 spot in the polls. Fields and company should make easy work of the Wolverines in what will be Harbaugh’s last stand.
Free Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes (-30).